One of the most interesting use cases for blockchain technology is healthcare. Within that field, dentistry often attracts much less attention than other areas. With standards and engagement levels for dentistry varying from jurisdiction to jurisdiction around the world, raising awareness about dental healthcare, and improving the service globally is a huge task. It entails a meeting of minds across cultures and between dental health professionals and patients. DentaCoin – DCN – is taking on this task using blockchain, to deliver the kind of preventive care, trust through peer reviews and engagement from all sides to the fore on its platform. We interviewed the DentaCoin team to gain a deeper understanding about how they are developing the tools to solve this challenge.
DentaCoin: The Opportunity
Bitcoin Chaser: DentaCoin is quite an ambitious project with many moving parts. How did you decide to divide it up into the coherent phases that we see on the white paper?
DentaCoin: No global concept could be successful solely because of its great ideas. Thus, a detailed plan with clear targets and purposeful, prioritized actions must be present. The first phase on our Roadmap is by nature the initial introduction of the concept to the wide public, meaning to dentists and patients outside the Blockchain community. It is focused on the development of the first value-generating tool for global use: The Trusted Review Platform. Why is this the first milestone? Why starting from reviews? Our own research and experience in dental business teaches one major need, concerning dentists worldwide: The need of building strong relations to their clients and gaining qualified feedback /market research data to enhance their treatment plans and communications.
On the other side, we see patients, lacking a reliable source of comparability between different dentists as well as the possibility to give unfiltered feedback. The basic idea is, to provide and maintain a decentralized review platform based on Ethereum smart contracts. The unique thing about this website is that it rewards high quality patient reviews with Dentacoins while simultaneously forms valuable crowd knowledge that dentists see as valuable market research data which could help them improve their services and form a loyal patient community around their practice (the most important “asset” of every service industry). This is the first step to realizing our “wallet-generating” strategy, concentrated on the idea to motivate people outside the Blockchain community to open a wallet and operate with Dentacoin.
The second phase consists of the development of a mobile app and a website for research and education, both aimed at forming knowledge and dental care habits in patients while simultaneously generating valuable market research data. Both tools are expected to widen the user group of Dentacoin even more as they are based on a gamification approach and we believe that nowadays customer engagement could be easily driven through an interactive and gamified environment. What makes these tools unique is that they not only educate and help people to take better care of their oral hygiene, but they reward users for their attempts to improve their dental care. At the same time, both tools help dental professionals to better understand their customers.
The Insurance concept and the Healthcare Database are significant pillars in our concept as well, but the first two phases are essential to our further development. They will introduce the concept to the industry; they will be our proof of concept. We are already testing the review platform and the mobile app. All three tools will be launched in beta version in September.
International Dental Health Standards
BC: Throughout the 4 phases of the project, the word “standard” stands out. Considering that standards vary across countries, how can DentaCoin help harmonize these standards at the relevant phases?
DC: Healthcare is a tricky sector to come in. It is a very specific and highly-regulated industry for understandable reasons. The role of regulatory bodies in ensuring that certain standards are maintained is of the utmost importance. However, there is nothing more powerful and valuable (not for dentists, not for the overall quality improvement) than the trustworthy feedback from the patient community. No regulatory authority, no central institution, no powerful organization or individual could control the industry better and stronger. And here comes Dentacoin to prove that the crowd power could take control over this industry and lead it to the better. But if we have to concentrate on dentistry, it differs from the rest of the healthcare industry mainly in its level of fragmentation. Dental Industry is highly-fragmented; we are talking here about many lone fighters and thus a low degree of industrialization. Right here is the chance of Dentacoin to set a new clear direction of global dentistry through digitization and crowd power.
BC: With regards to phase 3, you describe a dental care insurance mechanism conceptually, in which there is a smart contract and a “super” smart contract. At this point, there is the possibility of trading these contracts in the market. Can you explain how that may happen?
DC: Dentacoin aims at implementing a brand new notion of a “Hippocratic” dental insurance model where patients will no longer pay for treatments, but for prevention (“I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure”, Hippocrates Oath). This dental health “guarantee” will be concluded in the form of Smart contract between a dentist and a patient. The essence of this concept is that through low monthly rates paid in DCN, patients will be assured to receive lifelong dental care by their dentist. Dentists should therefore provide patients will individual advice on how to take proper care for their teeth and how to form general dental care habits through the Dentacare app. Only if patients adhere to these recommendations and pay their monthly rates, dentists are obliged to keep them healthy by covering all treatment costs. Thus, the responsibility for one’s health is shared and interests are aligned.
But what happens if a dentist closes his practice? Or he passes away? Here comes the role of the “super” smart contract which plays the role of a back-up insurance contract conducted in the event of unforeseen circumstances. Basically, it covers the costs for patients in case of any circumstances which are not set out as normal risk events in the standard Smart contract. On that note, it is comparable to the counter insurance in the traditional Insurance Business. And yes, when the contract is closed, it is already tradable. This is a part of our concept but as it is a subject to clarification and further discussions, we would like to share more information on it when we are closer to Phase 3.
A Full Dental Health Market
BC: For phase 4, you describe a situation in which suppliers in the dental health space will be able to take DentaCoin payments. How do you see the market developing in that field over the next few years?
DC: As an industrial solution, Dentacoin aims at engaging all market participants – dentists, patients, suppliers – to work together in order to improve the whole industry while simultaneously gaining benefits for themselves. One of our tools is a decentralized Trading Platform to provide dental care products, dental materials and equipment, connecting directly manufacturers, dentists and patients. Dental suppliers (manufacturers and laboratories) and dentists will be able to easily communicate and exchange value, without the extra time, efforts and fees for dealers, importers, wholesalers and retailers. The main effects of its implementation will be the following: 1) reduced length of the supply chain, 2) reduced international transaction costs, 3) ability of each dentist to order materials and equipment by himself through automated transactions, 4) lower purchase prices, leading to lower costs for patients.
A supplier of dental materials and equipment is already expressed interest in integrating Dentacoin as a payment method on their online shop. So dentists from around the world should already be able to buy dental materials with DCN a lot earlier than expected from our side. The main challenge in order to achieve a mass adoption of this trading concept is related to simplifying the access to the Ethereum Blockchain so that every person, regardless of his level of technical competence, can easily operate with Blockchain transactions. Considering the efforts that many developers worldwide put in this matter, we have no doubt that in a few years, if not earlier, the situation will be completely changed.
BC: Phase 4 also takes into consideration the creation of a medical record system based on the blockchain. How would that work conceptually? How will access to those records and the authorization to change them be granted?
DC: The preparation of an individual prophylaxis plan or a highly individualized treatment plan requires a holistic view of the overall health of the patient. So, an Ethereum-based dental health database will store the patient’s data in a secure and reliable way. The patient alone decides which doctors and providers he allow to access his medical records. If, in comparison, a traditional platform was used, that would allow for too many individuals and corporate entities to easily gain access to personal information and use it to their advantage like marketing or data analysis. With the blockchain technology, a dentist can read only upon prior given access. This peerless security degree and control over one’s own data will be ensured by the Blockchain. There is no central regulatory institution; no external decision-makers. The blockchain guarantees that the contract could not be changed and manipulated by whatever means possible. As for the authorization to change the data: Only patients will be able to modify their data with their DCN account but they may grant temporary access to dentists. Technically the data can’t be changed but could be removed and added by patients. In the long-term, we are looking for a cooperation with a developer of General Health Blockchain-based database.
DentaCoin: The App
BC: You mention the creation of an educational app to reward users for creating good dental health habits. How will the app work?
DC: The Aftercare Mobile App is a product, which aims to form long-lasting dental care habits. So how should that happen? Through notifications, daily reminders, written and spoken dental advice, this App will educate and navigate users to improve their dental hygiene and thus, form healthy habits and prevent more serious dental and overall health problems. One simple example: It is a proven fact that a lot of people do not know how to properly brush and floss their teeth. Our visual, written and spoken guidance will help them form this knowledge and implement it as a daily habit. If a patient complies with the App recommendations for 66 days – as the timeslot needed for a certain activity to become a habit – he or she will be rewarded with Dentacoins. In time, we see this app working in a constant connection (through Internet of Things) to different devices, providing even better and more personalized advice.
BC: Following that question on the rewards for app users, and considering that DentaCoin is pre-mined, how will you make sure you have enough DentaCoin to pay for the rewards if there is massive adoption?
DC: To be honest, we are pleasantly surprised by this question as normally people are shocked by the “huge” amount of Dentacoins pre-mined. But this is only before they have realized the essence of our distribution concept. When deciding for a total supply of DCN we have taken into account the following aspects:
- The minimum required volume of any currency to have a chance for a global use is 5% of the total world currencies volume (calculations are based on the Benford’s law). Today, all the world’s money equals USD 160 trillion and 8 trillion DCN is an equivalent to approximately 5% of this amount.
- 40% of the total DCN supply are reserved for earning through the value-generating tools of Dentacoin. How do we make sure we have enough Dentacoins to pay for the rewards if there is massive adoption? Our initial calculations are based solely on this assumption. We have calculated the maximum number of users for each tool per year. Then all the tokens (for earning, for buying or for the Foundation’s needs) were locked in contracts and will be released bit by bit from 2018 to 2042 following a planned schedule.
The Future of DentaCoin
BC: There are a few aspects of DentaCoin and certain tools that you will develop for this project, that could be used in the wider healthcare industry and even in other industries like insurance. How will you take on the task of extending the use of these tools to other industries? Did you contemplate this possibility at all?
DC: Indeed, we do contemplate this possibility in the long-term. Since the first introduction of the concept we are constantly being asked “Why not approaching the whole Healthcare Industry?”. The answer is simple: We wanted to start from a field where we have proven knowledge and experience. Plus, as mentioned above, the high level of fragmentation makes dentistry the ideal field for the Blockchain technology to be applied. However, the main pillars of our concept are also applicable to other fields in Healthcare. The Healthcare Database is the first attempt to jump over the Dentistry borders as it will help professionals in all medical fields to provide the most accurate diagnostics.
The Healthcare Industry
BC: Now let’s take a look at the previous question from a different angle: How do you think that DentaCoin will impact dental health awareness within the wider healthcare industry?
DC: Dental health is directly related to the overall health condition of a person. Thus, it is of utmost importance for each individual to maintain high dental hygiene standards. Dental health is not something “good to have” but not as important as another part of the body. Coming from the field of dentistry, we have seen first-hand how poor dental health could lead to an overall low quality of life. Problems with the gastrointestinal tract, the cardiovascular system, the nerve system form only a fraction of all problems linked to poor dental health.
So most importantly, people should be educated about the importance of proper dental care as a preventive measure and then they should be motivated to adhere to the recommendations and form healthy habits. Here gamification and reward systems are the “keywords” to achieving the needed level of dental health awareness. In an interactive and gamified environment, a stable knowledge base will be formed. Then this knowledge should be put into action and good motivation for that will be that patients will be rewarded for their efforts with Dentacoins which could later be used for paying for dental services, dental care products, insurance, etc.
DentaCoin to buy Candy!
BC: Once you release DentaCoin to the market, users will decide what to do with it. If your project enjoys widespread adoption, you might see DentaCoin being used to buy candy. How would you feel about a hypothetical situation in which DentaCoin, which was designed to provide dental health, is used to buy products that might be detrimental to dental health?
DC: Well, to be honest, we have discussed this matter internally and we cannot say that this is our favorite thought. But these are purely emotional reactions. In fact, we have no intention, nor desire to control the holders of Dentacoin about how to use their DCNs. Above all, the freedom of decision making is a core benefit of the Blockchain technology and as such, it stays on the top of our value pyramid. Even the goal to improve dental care worldwide comes next. However, we are positive that thevDentacoin users will be educated and motivated enough to not eat too much candy.