ScalaMed, founded by Australian doctor and former pharmaceutical executive Tal Rapke, allows patients to receive prescriptions directly from their clinician to their mobile phones.
“The only person in common at the hospital, the pharmacy, the GP or the specialist is the patient. There's not necessarily any shared data across all of those locations,” Rapke said.
“But if you can get the patient in the middle of their healthcare journey with their data, engaged with the right kind of algorithmic or AI support behind them, then you truly start creating a new healthcare future that's oriented towards the patient.”
The ScalaMed technology creates a patent-protected method to encrypt an individual's prescription data. It's then transported to ScalaMed's e-prescription blockchain service through secure APIs, published to the blockchain and made available to the patient immediately via an app.
“Blockchain is a source of truth for prescription data; it's the best form of technology to solve these issues, with its solid balance between usability and security,” Rapke said.
The technology also aims to solve the issue of medication management, he said, in which 50 percent of patients do not take medicines as required, resulting in 10% of hospitalisations and costing Australia an estimated $380 million annually.
“As a doctor I'd often see patients coming into the hospital and I'd need to call the pharmacist, the specialist and the GPs, and get them to fax records across so I could understand what medications the patient was taking,” Rapke said.
“But by empowering patients to self-manage, we'll reduce healthcare costs while also improving outcomes and quality of life.”
The ScalaMed platform launched back in November, but it has so far failed to secure Australian Government support.
“We still have a legislative requirement for paper when it comes to prescriptions in Australia. We were trying to work around this with state and federal governments. However, there was no appetite to explore this,” he said.
He compared the ScalaMed approach to the Australian Digital Health Agency's efforts to move patient data online through the My Health Record website.
“The government's approach of having a big central repository where everyone's data is is actually a little bit antiquated,” Rapke said. “It's not a bad approach but it's still got a lot of holes in the data that exists in that space. And it's a repository. What our solution is trying to do is decentralise that – move away from the idea of creating honeypots of data that are open to hacking.”
While ScalaMed has struggled to get Australian authorities excited about the potential, they've got their eyes set on a much bigger market.
The start-up was the only Australian company accepted into a prestigious digital accelerator program run by the Texas Medical Center – the largest medical complex in the world.
The program, which runs from February this year, will introduce ScalaMed to big players in the Houston and US healthcare market.
“It's to help us find partners in the US – payers, clinics, software providers, investment. It's an amazing opportunity and will really help us accelerate our global growth in 2018,” Rapke said.
He hopes success in the US will make the Australian government sit up and take notice. In the meantime, ScalaMed will continue to run pilots at three locations in Australia – Sydney, Brisbane and Byron Bay – albeit without going fully paperless.
“So it's a dual paper and non-paper record for the trial. It seems silly but it's the rules,” he said. “We're doing a clinical study in association with this to really demonstrate that not only do patients prefer this approach, but also that it delivers better clinical outcomes, better adherence and engagement from the patients.
“So hopefully we'll leverage that data to go back and say there is a clear mandate for change here in Australia.”