A Catholic non-profit will reward patients with crypto for taking meds on time

The US-based OSF Healthcare announced it is building a blockchain-based mobile app that incentivizes healthy behaviors.

A stock photo featuring senior woman holding daily pill container.

The research cited by OSF Healthcare reveals that patients with chronic conditions don’t take their prescribed drugs on time in 50% of cases. Not sticking with the medication schedules results in $100b in unnecessary healthcare spending every year. So researchers decided to develop a platform that will help patients to improve their health while complying with the strict consumer protection regulations.

The project is led by OSF Innovation Senior Fellow and Clinical Informaticist Dr. Jonathan Handler, in collaboration with Innovation Engineer Tate Ralph of Jump Simulation. Additional support will be provided by Wencui Han and Andrew Miller, assistant professors at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Gies College of Business and the Grainer College of Engineering, respectively.

The platform will use zero-knowledge proof, an encryption method that allows verifying a statement without disclosing who provided information, who is it about, or how they know if it’s true. ”It’s a way to prove that you are doing what you’re supposed to be doing or prove that you have a certain diagnosis, so that if we incentivize you – even if we don’t know who you are – we can ensure that it’s a trustworthy system,” Tate Ralph says.

Since app users will be anonymous, and the suppliers of the rewards aren’t identified either, the incentive program won’t be viewed as an inducement to use a certain medical provider or service, which is illegal under federal law. Additionally, consumers would be rewarded with crypto instantly for taking meds, exercising, or any other healthy activities. It’s a different approach to reward programs compared to those offered by insurance companies. In that case, users are identified by their names and receive bonus points which can be later exchanged for goods on retail marketplaces.

“You would actually be accepting currency directly; likely cryptocurrency in our case, but maybe some other digital transaction that would immediately give you that return. Other systems will take a lot longer and it’ll be harder to see directly the impact of what you’re doing,” Ralph explains.

The researcher believes that the application providing instant rewards will help people to follow medication schedules in between appointments.

“You only have a clinical touchpoint every couple of months or every half of the year, something like that, so you're less incentivized to think about it until you have to start kicking it into gear because you're going to go to the office and you don't want to be embarrassed, frankly,” Ralph observes.

Future improvements to the platform will enable data collection from wearables and in-home monitors. Researchers also hope to expand application usage to other community health initiatives like vaccinations ar health screenings.