Convergence at its Finest
Introducing MediBloc and its co-representative, Lee Eun-sol
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Convergence and interdisciplinary research is a hot issue in academics recently. If there was anyone who had predicted this trend ahead of time, it would be the co-representative of MediBloc, Lee Eun-sol (Medicine, '09). As a scholar in the field of medicine and computer programming, Lee’s plan to become an expert in both of these fields, and to ultimately converge them into creating a new field dates back to his high school graduation, nearly 15 years ago. With a high school friend, who himself is an expert in the field of computer programming and dental medicine, Lee’s plan is now in action, with the company MediBloc introduced to the world in August.
Lee carried an air of passion and enthusiasm, which made it quite obvious how he had become an expert on two of the most challenging fields of study.
The initiation of Lee’s life-long plan, MediBloc
MediBloc is a start-up company that has created a program, in the form of an application, that aims to transfer the basis of medical information from hospitals to personal platforms. The status quo is that our medical records are scattered over the hospitals that we have visited throughout our lives. Our blood tests, x-ray visuals, CT scans, and such are kept in the database of the hospitals that provided these procedures. This infrastructure creates unnecessary costs for both the patients and hospitals. For instance, when a patient is skeptical with a diagnosis from a hospital and wants to refer to a different one to confirm it, he or she will have to go through, or more correctly pay for, the same procedures and exams. An existing method to avoid this unnecessary cost is to visit the former hospital in person and make a formal request of a particular record, with the signature of the hospital to confirm its authenticity. By providing the ownership of every record and document, MediBloc eliminates the need to do so. Furthermore, with a life-long record of medical history at hand, doctors can come up with a more accurate diagnosis and prescriptions.
The idea of personalizing medical records has existed for quite a while. However, the biggest issue concerning the realization of this concept was trust. Individuals were not deemed reliable enough to be trusted with medical records. If people could find a way to modify or tinker with their records, it could be misused to demand large sums of money from hospitals and insurance companies. Until now, hospitals were the most reliable entity to be trusted with the safe maintenance of medical data. This obstacle has been removed with the introduction of the 'Block chain technology'. Block chain is essentially a system of a shared ledger, which makes it impossible for an individual to unilaterally modify a body of record. It has been the crucial technology behind the use of Bit Coins, a form of virtual currency and is used largely in the financial field for the security of financial ledgers. By introducing Block chain technology into medical records, Lee has sought a way to transfer storage and management of medical information to the individual, just as we can keep track and use of our bank accounts without having to consult the bank.
MediBloc aims to bring the storage, access, and management of medical information to a personal platform, much like how we conduct and manage bank transactions through our smartphones. (Photo courtesy of MediBloc)
What the future could look like
The biggest expectation is the true realization of individually customized medical treatment. This concept has been continuously repeated and emphasized among many hospitals, but the reality is that this has been no means to realize this concept. Over the years, although most of our hospitals have changed much in the exterior, in terms of facilities, tools, and technology, the interior makeup and system are pretty much the same as in the 90s. Through MediBloc, Lee hopes to create what he calls a patient-as-a-platform system of treatment, with all information about the patient conveniently accessed and thus more thorough and “customized”.
As with any form of great change, there are forces against MediBloc, mostly those in the medical sector. According to Lee, the role of the storage of medical records for some hospitals is seen as valuable assets. For one, it allows a hospital to “keep” patients, as the collection of medical data would make it the most informed, and, thus, the most trustworthy source of medical service. Second, the records could be used for further research conducted in individual hospitals. In addition, hospitals even now are reluctant about exporting their medical data, as it would be disclosing indicators of its competence as well as general practices. Lee argues that in truth, there are more benefits. When information is personalized, small hospitals can attain more patients since they would now have just as much information and, consequently, reliability as large, major hospitals. Meanwhile, large hospitals would still maintain the upper hand in terms of advanced facilities, services and so on.
Steady, planned steps
Lee had deep interests in the field of computer programming as a high school student, having competed in several competitions as well. However, he could not let down the expectations of his parents, who desired the path of medicine for Lee. It was then that he decided that it still wouldn’t be too late to pursue programming after receiving a doctorate in medicine. Furthermore, he believed that convergence would be something of a major trend in the future and expected that his choice to study both fields would eventually pay off. Lee emphasized this idea of looking into the future in all aspects of life. A business that thrives now may not necessary do so in the next five to ten years. It was this manner of thinking that led him to establish MediBloc; he believed that personalization of medical records was a dawning change, and that his company would play a major role in several years.
Lee jokingly added that having talented workers was an immense asset as a start-up company, and that he welcomes anyone willing to contribute.
The most significant advice that Lee leaves to students of Hanyang is something that he is living every day. For many young graduates seeking a “stable” job, he raises the question of the essential meaning of the word. “I believe that stability rises out of our capabilities. It doesn’t matter where we start, or how many times we have moved from jobs to jobs--If we can prove our worth, there will always be a demand for us.” For Lee, giving up a “stable” job as a doctor was never much of a struggle, as he knew that a profession as a doctor is not so stable anymore. They too, need to continue to improve practices, expand research, develop procedures, and so on to keep up with new demands. Rather than that, Lee simply decided to pursue his interests in the field of programming and business. As a last message, Lee expressed his hopes for bringing positive changes to the public, financial, and medical sectors through his project.
Lee Chang-hyun email@example.com
Photos by Choi Min-ju
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