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Inspired by Visa’s cooperative ownership structure, Michael Dillhyon, founder and board member of Healthbank Cooperative, has created a novel way for people to keep and own their health and medical records. Envisioned as a global solution and based in Switzerland, the co-op has 270,000 members, giving it a credible start.
The members of the co-op each have one vote in corporate decisions, regardless of their ownership. The co-op itself owns the data and an operating subsidiary that is working actively to grow the business. The co-op controls the subsidiary, but some financial returns will go to investors.
Co-op member, Otto Philipp Braun, who is the managing director for Metamorphoses, says, “The cooperative offers an individual, safe and transparent way to use healthcare data.” He also expressed appreciation for the oversight the co-op provides to the corporate subsidiary.
Healthbank CEO, Reto Schegg, 49, joined me for a recorded discussion, which you can watch in the player at the top of this article. He describes Healthbank as a “data for good” project. “We deliver trust and enable world-changing services under the full control of the user.”
Dillhyon and two colleagues at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology began working on the project in 2012, focusing initially on technology solutions. Ultimately, however, they concluded that the problem of creating a global health databank was more cultural than technical. “Trust and individual rewards were needed to drive global scalability,” he said.
The structure of Visa, with competing banks owning Visa and yet cooperating by honoring one another’s transactions—even across international borders—provided a conceptual framework for Dillyon and his early colleagues.
Revenues are trickling in but the business is not yet profitable. For instance, the company provides secure data storage for health app providers. As the apps collect data—with the permission of the users—their data is stored by the co-op for a fee to the app company.
Schegg, who has a background in engineering, healthcare, business administration and international law, joined Healthbank almost six years ago.
The data sets they store today are a small, eclectic mix. Some apps collect fitness data of the sort generated by smart fitness watches. Some medical records and x-rays are stored in the database. One interesting example Schegg provided was a that of a diagnostic game that people can play over the years to spot the onset of dementia.
The latter example typifies the need for ownership, security, privacy and trust. Imagine learning from a game that you might have Alzheimer’s. You would want absolute control over who can access that information and under what circumstances.
In fact, there is a growing recognition that humans have become products that companies gathering massive amounts of data about us can monetize without sharing the revenue or profits. Demand for new structures that recognize data as an extension of the self may be long in coming but Healthbank Cooperative represents an interesting early step in that progression.
March 15, 2019 at 09:08AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs