How Open Source Software Benefits Veterans’ Healthcare Initiatives

In December 2021, Equideum Health (formerly ConsenSys Health) and Linux Foundation Public Health launched a collaboration focused on the uniquely complex healthcare needs of United States veterans and their families called the VICI initiative, which is set to grow in the coming months to include further collaborators.

This blog post summarizes a recent webinar (you can view it below) on the topic of, “How Open Source Software Benefits Veterans’ Healthcare Initiatives” while also sharing the perspectives of some of the key players involved, including Heather Leigh Flannery, Founder & CEO of Equideum Health, Jim St. Clair, Linux Foundation Public Health Executive Director, Daniela Barbosa, Linux Foundation General Manager for healthcare, identity and blockchain, Dr. Joseph Wood, MD, PhD (US Army, Retired), Executive Director of the VICI initiative and Vice President, Decentralized Trials and Virtual Health at Equideum Health, and Dr. David Metcalf, General Partner and Managing Director at Global Blockchain Ventures.

What Is the VICI initiative?

The VICI initiative, which stands for Veterans Incentivized Coordination and Integration, is a novel public health intervention focused on the needs of veterans, their families, and caregivers. According to Flannery, “Currently in the United States, veterans’ health is negatively impacted by the highly fragmented nature of healthcare delivery and breakdowns during care transitions. The VICI initiative will match, orchestrate, optimize, and personalize veterans-facing health and social services, empowering participating veterans and their families at the center of a newly integrated ecosystem.”

Understanding VICI and the Benefits to Veterans

VICI will convene a consortium of enterprise stakeholders to focus on the unique healthcare needs of veterans, their families and caregivers. Equideum Health’s Elevated Compute™ platform will enable coordination across the organizational boundaries of these stakeholders, optimizing delivery of health services for improved outcomes while ensuring veterans have fine-grained control over their health and health-relevant data.

Importantly, VICI will introduce a new mechanism for either remuneration or donation if veterans choose to provide fine-grained consent for use of their data, such as for academic or clinical research. VICI’s provisioning of decentralized AI-driven predictive capabilities, as well as privacy-preserving matching for clinical trials, will support veterans’ health and accelerate the potential of creating and delivering innovative precision therapies.

In many ways, veterans’ health constitutes population health as a subset or an example of the ecosystem. US veterans are a multifaceted population with a very distinct culture, as everyone immediately recognizes, but they also represent many of the facets of US culture nationally overall. Veterans experience a great number of challenges with chronic care management, mental health disorders, post-traumatic stress, and other unique injuries associated with their service and service disabilities at a disproportionate rate to their civilian counterparts. So, this is a prime example of an opportunity for new and innovative open source and decentralized solutions working together.

Who is Involved?

The VICI initiative is a collaborative effort initially involving Equideum Health, a company creating decentralized person-centric networks for healthcare and research, and Linux Foundation Public Health (LFPH), which builds, secures and sustains open source software for public health authorities. The lead investor in this initiative is Global Blockchain Ventures. Further participants are expected to join the initiative in the coming months.

The Steering Committee and the VICI Consortium

The collaboration also includes the creation of an LFPH-hosted Veterans Affairs Steering Committee focusing initially on current and contemplated open source software components to power VICI. Work is currently underway to determine a charter for the steering committee and to identify potential early members.

More broadly, under the leadership of Equideum Health and the non-profit Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services, the VICI initiative is convening a consortium of enterprise and public sector stakeholders to focus on the healthcare needs of veterans, their families and caregivers.

What Do the Various Parties Involved Bring to the VICI Table?

Linux Foundation Public Health

LFPH is the premier home for the development of open source software and digital services that serve the world’s public health technology and infrastructure needs. LFPH works with federal agencies, public health authorities, healthcare organizations, technology vendors, academia, industry associations, and the public to ensure their investments into tech meet common needs and have maximum impact, leading to a sustainable and broad commercial ecosystem around shared software and digital services.

According to LFPH Executive Director Jim St. Clair, “Linux Foundation has thousands of open source projects and Linux Foundation Public Health is one of our newer activities specifically focused on healthcare and being able to provide open source tools and open source ecosystems to advance digital health.”

Equideum Health

Equideum Health’s Elevated Compute™ platform extensively leverages open source software, including from projects governed by the Hyperledger Foundation, a sister organization to LFPH also part of the Linux Foundation. Elevated Compute will enable VICI to coordinate across the organizational boundaries of VICI members via blockchain, decentralized artificial intelligence, and confidential computing, aiming to optimize delivery of health services for improved outcomes while ensuring veterans have fine-grained control over their health and health-relevant data. 

Global Blockchain Ventures

GBV is a blockchain technology-focused venture capital fund, specializing in blockchain-enabled applications within synergistic technology platforms including Internet of Things, MedTech, and Artificial Intelligence. GBV sees blockchain technology as a fascinating foundational technology that will spur innovation and advancements across all industries. Blockchain technology, in many cases, is not a competitor to existing technology but rather a structural, beneficial stimulant that will ultimately converge with other technology. GBV’s mission is to fund and support the most disruptive and promising projects that demonstrate and offer practical blockchain-enabled solutions that benefit the global economy.

Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services

Dixon Center is a resource for individuals, organizations, and communities interested in the long-term wellbeing of veterans and their families. They use influence, ideas, and actions to assist direct service providers transform the lives of service members, veterans, and their families, ensuring they reach their full potential.

More on the VICI Initiative from those involved

Equideum Health Founder and CEO Heather Flannery on the role of Equideum in the initiative:

“We view our role in this relationship as providing comprehensive cryptographic trust to a wide range of uniquely complex business, clinical and population-level mechanics that unfortunately leave many veterans behind today, where technological innovation seems to pass over the unique complexities that they face.

We have an unusual and unprecedented opportunity to target the way that a new wave of paradigm-shifting technologies impacts a population and we’ve decided to do that together with our partners for veterans and their families.

VICI, as an initiative, will comprise a range of firsts for the industry, particularly in the United States market. We will be enabling self-sovereign identity, data sovereignty, and the ability for veterans to preserve their privacy while accessing care that can be stigmatizing. Examples of care areas include suicidality, substance use disorder, military sexual trauma, and post-traumatic stress in a growing population of female of veterans, and other scenarios. We believe our unique combination of privacy-preserving technologies can have an immediate high-value impact in these areas. Ultimately, our vision is the total wellness of this population, importantly and always including veterans with their families and their caregivers.”

Linux Foundation Public Health Executive Director Jim St. Clair on the unique health needs of veterans:

“Veterans have unique demographic and population health considerations and social determinants of health and we’re only now beginning to explore in a broad scale how to be able to enable patient identity, control of their identity and their consent as part of sharing that information, especially when there’s critical socioeconomic, demographic or other population health factors that must be considered as part of their clinical care.

So specific to Linux Foundation Public Health, Equideum Health and the Veteran Steering Committee, as with any such activity, having representation from senior advisors and stakeholders is critical, I think, to building the proper audience, identifying and prioritizing what their needs are, and being able to consider consensus-driven open source solutions in collaboration with other industry partners and Equideum Health, and building upon the type of technologies that we have and organizations like Linux Foundation, Hyperledger, Linux Foundation AI and the work we’ve done within Linux Foundation Public Health for supporting and working with public health authorities.”

Jim St Clair on the importance of the Steering Committee:

“This steering committee will really consist of representatives from the VA community, hopefully VA leadership, representatives from veteran service organizations, and other participants within the technology community so that we make sure that we’re collectively addressing potential open source digital health opportunities that are completely in line and prioritized with veterans’ needs and the needs of the community in terms of implementation writ large.”

Linux Foundation General Manager for healthcare, identity and blockchain Daniela Barbosa on what this initiative can mean for the healthcare industry: 

“The Linux Foundation for the last 20 years has been building these developer code communities that really span across different industries and different sectors and really important things that are critical to how technology impacts our day-to-day lives, whether it’s in healthcare or in financial services or other divisions.

And it’s really important to understand that our goal here at the Linux Foundation is to (bring together) communities of developers, so the developers that actually contribute the code and contribute the documentation or contribute the code fixes, that contribute the use cases and the templates – and provide the commercial ecosystem to support these open-source code bases and initiatives.

And I think that’s a really important aspect of the Linux Foundation and this partnership and how we work together with companies like Equideum Health, which helps support multiple projects here at Hyperledger, Linux Foundation Public Health, and the Confidential Computing Consortium.

Today there’s over a billion lines of code that have been contributed to the Linux Foundation across all our projects across over 20,000 companies. And a lot of government agencies have developers that contribute and participate in Linux Foundation projects. I hope that with the leadership that Jim St. Clair brings to Linux Foundation Public Health as Executive Director and his experiences with veterans and with the industry as a whole, we can apply more resources and more opportunities for these communities to get together.”

Dr. David Metcalf, General Partner and Managing Director at Global Blockchain Ventures, the lead investor of the VICI initiative, on the use of blockchain in healthcare:

“During the height of COVID, for instance, the VA came to us and asked us if we would update all of the personal protective equipment training that’s done for hundreds of thousands of people. And they not only decided to do it for themselves, but they decided to open it up to all healthcare providers too. So we got a pretty wide birth of use to make sure that people are protected every day and to also make sure that those training records were going to be kept in such a way that you had ongoing standards-based access to those too, no matter what organization you were in, whether you were in the VA, within another part of the federal government or outside of the government in a healthcare organization. Those are the types of things that blockchain solutions help with because of the continuity, because you can put a smart contract in place that actually allows you to have just the information you need, no more, no less, no matter what your stakeholder value proposition is inside of there. So that’s an example of some of the work that we’ve been doing at the Mixed Emerging Technology Integration Lab at the University of Central Florida to try and do our small part to help veterans and to help those that serve veterans, all of our healthcare providers.”

Dr Joseph Wood, a physician and veteran and VICI’s executive director within Equideum Health on why he is so excited about the project:

“As a physician, most of what we focus on is in diagnostics, right? And while we’re interested in the overall wellness of our patients, and that’s emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, all the various domains of what it means to be well, as clinicians, we’re usually particularly focused on diagnostics and all these other domains that are so important in the overall wellness of an individual. Our healthcare IT systems often don’t capture them in ways that make any of that information actionable.

That’s one of the things that I’m very excited about the VICI project and working specifically with the Dixon Center – there are so many great opportunities that the community has made available to veterans. I mean, it’s literally in the thousands that address so many of these spheres of what it means to be well.

And what do I mean by that? Well, as a veteran, when I go into the veterans hospital, I may not be aware that there’s literally hundreds of local community opportunities to be engaged with fellow veterans. That may be anything from recreational activities to scuba diving, to sailing lessons, to writing, to learning how to be a writer. There’s just a tremendous wealth of opportunities out there, even online yoga classes.

All this may sound trivial, but from my standpoint as a provider and as a patient, having access and knowing what’s available out there is one of the problems that we face within the medical community as physicians because we don’t know all this is available, and I would venture to say that many veterans don’t realize what’s available.

So being able to partner with an organization like the Dixon Center that is a clearing house for the tens of thousands of veteran service organizations and using technology to be able to match needs with what those resources are is a very exciting opportunity.”

For further information on the VICI initiative, the LFPH Veterans Affairs Steering Committee, and LFPH’s collaboration with Equideum Health, contact us here.

How Open Source Software Benefits Veterans’ Healthcare Initiatives Full Webinar

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