MedBlocks: Doctor-Patient Communication Made Easy
Manipal: An assemblage of medicine and technology is how MedBlocks can be described. Designed by Sidharth Ramesh, an MBBS student from Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, MedBlocks is a software which stores a patient’s medical data for easy access and communication of information if the patient switches hospitals. “It is a protocol which tries to majorly solve the issue of inter-compatibility of health reports between hospitals,” said Sidharth.
Elaborating on the functioning of the software, Sidharth mentioned that when doctors and patients fill in data, they cryptographically sign it and put in on a public database. This algorithm based on cryptographic keys is used to efficiently access medical data of patients who come from other hospitals. It is a derivative of the blockchain technology unlike the assumption that it is blockchain itself. MedBlocks is still under progress. The major focus of the advanced research at this stage is the incorporation of the technology in an offline setting like rural areas to cater to medical needs by syncing data, along with the construction of a public, yet confidential database. Commenting on data security, he said that there is chance of data theft only if the patient shares his cryptographic key or card with someone.
A trial and error approach that started out of pure interest, encouraged by the vision of practical application later became quite instrumental. Hailing from Tamil Nadu, Sidharth found a persistent problem in communication between doctors and patients due to the language barrier. The idea of creating MedBlocks initially surfaced to avoid hassles in medical treatment. Moreover, significant medical history of a patient required for further check-up is lost without proper documentation. “A patient might come with a wound on one hand and he might also not know what it is. Like this, we lose a lot of record because of that,” said Sidharth as an example. In such a case, if the patient goes to any other hospital, he can retrieve the document from the hospital in which he was before with the help of his cryptographic key.
Keeping in mind the technical infrastructure of hospitals, the protocol can be integrated into the existing formats of healthcare. Talking about the readiness of hospitals to install the required infrastructure for the software, Sidharth said that he doubts if the hospitals would be ready to take up the infrastructure immediately and that it also depends upon the need of the particular hospital. In rural healthcare settings where doctors put up camps, it is essential for one camp’s doctor to know what vaccine the previous camp has given to the villagers. The lack of data sync in such conditions, leads to doctors providing the village with same kind of amenity (for example, a vaccine) that the last camp doctors have already given. “I think people should start incorporating the idea based on the need. I don’t think KMC will immediately start incorporating this because for them, there is not much need for encryption or for inter-compatibility,” he added.
Being a third-year medical student, Sidharth faces the problem of time management, but has found a balanced way to deal with academics and to create updates for his software. He believes that colleges should stop packing students with lectures and students should start working on real-world problems and learn through that instead.
Sana, a Switzerland based healthcare company working in accordance with Sidharth helped merge his idea of rural healthcare and the company’s motive of encryption, thus minimising modification of data.
Furthermore, his aim is to keep up the core functionality of the protocol and bring in advancements to reach a level of implementation in hospitals in a time frame of about two months or so. Having been approached by various Blockchain based start-up companies in Bengaluru, Sidharth is more inclined towards keeping MedBlocks as an open platform for maximum benefit to the public, rather than incubating to a particular organisation.
With inputs from Purva Pathak
Featured Image Courtesy: Mridul Kalra
Edited by: Karthika Venugopal