MedAI Network is an app we launched earlier this year for telemedicine on the blockchain. I’ve been thinking more about the potential impact it could have on healthcare today and in the future.
What is MedAI Network today?
MedAI Network is a combination of three key technologies that are changing the way we view healthcare and diagnostics.
1. A Dapp for telemedicine
Distributed applications (Dapps) developed on the blockchain provide a way for physicians to easily participate in telemedicine with no middleman costs aside from the minimal gas fees of the Ethereum network. While there are many telemedicine platforms, they all include heavy fees for data transfer and significant personnel overhead to operate. They are also not inclusive of all physicians especially in the developing world where you have access to talented specialists at a much lower cost. In the spirit of decentralization, we plan to open source our Dapp so that anyone can contribute to the development of affordable telemedicine.
2. AI diagnostics
AI has been receiving a lot of press recently in its use cases in healthcare and especially medical imaging. Even tech companies like IBM, Alibaba and Google have been making great strides in AI diagnostics to predict lung nodules, diabetic retinopathy, breast cancer, and many more indications. At MedAI, we have firsthand experience in this space building SemanticMD, a medical image analysis platform powered by deep learning. One of the key lessons we learned is that distribution and access to basic healthcare is very uneven across the world and an AI that might serve as a second opinion in the U.S. could be the difference of non-consumption in another part of the world. We have deployed our TB diagnostics in places in the world where there are only 3 radiologists for a population in the millions. Dapps not only solve the distribution problem in remote areas, but the inclusion of AI diagnostics truly makes this a cost-effective solution.
3. A decentralized storage for medical images
Over the past decade, the amount of medical imaging data generated in the U.S. has grown exponentially and created a huge demand for data storage. Managing the “data tsunami” has become a major priority of healthcare providers especially as federal and state retention requirements for medical archives become more stringent. For example, HIPAA requires records to be archived for six years after discharge. While cloud based storage provides a cheaper alternative to traditional onsite Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS), they are imperfect due to the security restrictions and the costs of storing medical images are still too high.
For healthcare providers that want cheap storage but are not ready to accept third party cloud-based providers, blockchain based storage provides a safer alternative as the storage nodes can be limited to hospitals within a single network. Even within a single hospital there are inefficiencies in storage of data between different departments (radiology, pathology, informatics, etc.). Hence, blockchain can provide the benefits of cloud storage with the security and reliability of a private network.
Storing a single study (~50 MB) costs atleast $1/month which for a typical radiology group can amount to $10,000/month. With blockchain-based storage, tokens like Siacoin and Filecoin have proven that they can considerably bring down the price. We are building our storage platform using similar technology but also ensuring the security and integrations needed to utilize the storage in clinical environments.
MedAI Network and telemedicine platforms are continuing to evolve quickly. We are in the early stages of this new decentralized healthcare world.
What can MedAI Network be in the future?
What we really want to develop with MedAI Network is the idea that technology and geography shouldn’t be a barrier to providing patients the right care at the right time.
Our theory is that physicians + AI + dApps offers an opportunity to provide affordable telediagnostics and care to people all over the world. Imagine the following scenario:
- An NGO in The Gambia just received a new X-ray machine and is struggling to find radiologists to diagnose the patient images. Network connectivity issues precludes them from contacting local hospitals and even if they were able to make a connection, there are only 34 radiologists in the entire nation.
- The NGO accesses MedAI Network through a local IPFS node and uploads their X-ray scans through the easy web interface. MedAI Network also serves as a free EHR and diagnostic viewer.
- A radiologist in the U.S. sees this request on MedAI Network from the NGO and offers to read their scans for free. An AI diagnostic has already prescreened the patients for tuberculosis and assigned a score to make the radiologist’s job easier.
- With this new found connection, the NGO can make use of their X-ray equipment and the local patient population can get the care they need. All without any middleman fees for this beneficial service to society.
While MedAI Network has a long way to go to achieve this vision, we have already started establishing partnerships with open healthcare foundations, nonprofit teleradiology groups and NGOs. We currently have a team at Carnegie Mellon University Africa devising solutions for AI computing and IPFS on the edge for enhanced user experience.
If you’re interested in joining us on this mission, please get in touch with us here.