Pain Expert Says Blockchain Tech Can Help Cure the Ills That Are Hurting the World

Alex Cahana, Chief Medical Officer at ConsenSys Health, says we are not going to return to normal because that caused the coronavirus crisis in the first place

Allon Sinai 11:4628.04.20

Hoping for a return to normal once the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic ends? Well, you might not want to hear what Alex Cahana, Chief Medical Officer at ConsenSys Health, the healthcare arm of Brooklyn-based blockchain technology company ConsenSys Inc., has got to say.


"First of all, we are not going to return to normal because normal is what caused us to be in this predicament in the first place," Cahana told CTech last week. "People understand that they need to change, so when people ask me 'oh Dr. Cahana, what has changed since Covid-19?' they expect me to say 'I'm working remotely and I'm not eating out’, but that is not what really has changed. What changed to me is that now people who have not been interested in what I've been doing in the last five or six years are suddenly calling and saying maybe there is something to what you are doing. Maybe there is something to this way of looking at life that can help us design a new economic model, a new way of interacting between us and a new way to do business."


Dr. Alex Cahana, Chief Medical Officer at ConsenSys Health. Photo: Courtesy
Dr. Alex Cahana, Chief Medical Officer at ConsenSys Health. Photo: Courtesy


It is Cahana's long journey to his current position that has resulted in his conviction and passion that blockchain has the potential to solve this crisis. The journey began in Israel, where he was born and went on to study medicine at Tel Aviv University and serve as a decorated officer in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). He helped set up the IDF’s trauma branch in the 1980's and trained physicians in Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) before helping to create the Combat Trauma Life Support (CTLS) course. He went on to train as an anesthesiologist, practicing in acute/chronic pain with leading pain faculties in the U.S. at both Vanderbilt University and the Cleveland Clinic. In 2000, he started a multidisciplinary pain clinic in Geneva that grew to 23 practitioners and became the largest pain clinic in Switzerland. In 2008, he was recruited to the University of Washington Department of Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine to revitalize their interdisciplinary pain medicine program, which he achieved with great success. His journey in blockchain began around six years ago, ultimately leading him to ConsenSys Health earlier this year.


Cahana describes himself among other things as a philosopher and a physician who lived four lives in one in his Medium bio, which perhaps helps explain his approach to blockchain, coronavirus, and life in general.


"From a medical perspective what I say is that in order to stop Covid-19, private, trusted and safe data is the medicine we need," he explained. "It doesn't matter the type of vaccine or what type of social distancing you practice. All of those things are secondary. If the data is not trusted, safe, and private, we can't have a conversation, we can't understand anything. So people are now starting to understand that this decentralized distributed approach is the key to how we are going to have to handle ourselves. Because now suddenly we understand that what we do here in New York influences a small island in the South Pacific that is going underwater. And what someone far away in the middle of China does impacts what I'm doing here in Manhattan. We can't live anymore in this fantasy that we are individuals and do whatever we want with no accountability and expect that there is no impact to what we do."


Cahana broke down the possibilities presented by distributed ledger technology. "Blockchain offers an operational environment that allows us to analyze data at its source. We don't need to create these huge data banks that can be hacked and manipulated. We don't need to bring the data to the algorithm, the algorithm can go to the data. It is called federated learning which is like machine learning together with privacy-preserving technologies," said Cahana. "The idea of introducing a whole token economy into healthcare is to transform people from health service consumers to health and wealth producers. As opposed to artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, genomics, telemedicine, and all these things that are innovative and are general-purpose technologies that make things faster, better and cheaper, blockchain really is disruptive in the business model. It really transforms digital healthcare from patient-centric to patient-driven. People can drive their own health similar to how they invest in their wealth."


Cahana explained that his life story allows him to truly understand distributed trust. "When you go into the battlefield which is uncertain and very complex, when you say where do I need to go and are taking an infinite amount of data points, you have to be situation-aware and know your back is covered and you can trust that the person next to you will take care of you. That is the consensus between us. There is not only accountability between us, but an interdependence between us if we want all of us to survive and this is the world we are now moving into," he noted. "So from a business perspective, people understand that there is a new way to have a business that creates a balanced ecosystem that is not only more inclusionary but is more sustainable. Spending capitalism requires people to have enough money to spend. And when you create an environment where there is such income inequality and it is so exclusionary and non-transparent than people don't have the ability to spend and you have that ripple effect that freezes and then collapses the economy. We are moving from an economy of commodities, an economy of stuff, which is by nature limited to an economy of data which is infinite. We need to move from a mentality of poverty, of a zero-sum game, where if you have more that means I have less, to a mentality of abundance, to a mentality of a network effect and that is what blockchain does. The better you’re off the better I'm off. That is why I'm so excited. Because I really think that for the first time in the history of mankind we have the technology to solve this. And people have to be curious enough to understand these technologies."


According to Cahana, blockchain connects people economically and connects people with information that can be trusted. "My journey is not random. There is an intentionality behind it," he said. "I wouldn't have been a pain doctor without seeing pain in the battlefield. And I wouldn't be in technology without seeing people with pain for 26 years and I wouldn't be in blockchain if I wouldn't have been exposed to all these technologies. And I wouldn't be able to conceptualize the post-pandemic world without living in New York which is the epicenter of the pandemic. People are concerned about the how before they understand the why and I think that it is important to understand why we are at this point before we understand how we pull ourselves out of this."