Blockchain project wins ‘People’s Choice’ award at national medical conference

UIC’s Dr. Roger Boodoo and Dr. Al Alsadi won the People’s Choice Award from the Innovation Challenge, hosted by the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine.

Two doctors at the University of Illinois at Chicago have won the People’s Choice Award from the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine for their project “Diagnosis Protocol —Using Blockchain to Accelerate Artificial Intelligence in Medical Imaging.” The project, which beat out nearly 30 other submissions, seeks to improve the health care community’s ability to diagnose disease.

“In most scenarios, a single human decides on a diagnosis,” said Dr. Roger Boodoo, a radiologist and clinical informatics fellow at UIC. “While these medical experts are well-trained, there is still the potential for human error.”

“We want to eliminate this human error when it comes to image-based diagnoses,” Boodoo said.

That is why Boodoo and his colleague Dr. Al Alsadi, a pathologist, are using blockchain technology to create an online platform that, they hope, will enable artificial intelligence to aid physicians in making a diagnosis.

“Right now, AI capabilities for making an imaging-based medical diagnosis are limited because computers lack a comprehensive set of data to analyze as a reference,” said Alsadi, who is also a clinical informatics fellow.

Their Diagnosis Protocol project encourages patients, physicians and health care institutions to upload de-identified images and input associated diagnoses. The incentive is a token (paid based on the quality of data and physician participation in identifying associated diagnoses), which users can trade as cryptocurrency, similar to bitcoin. The platform will use blockchain technology to compare data, find errors and correct those errors with consensus-based algorithms.

“Once we have enough data, the potential for AI-assisted diagnostics is nearly limitless,” Alsadi said.

“The help of AI technology would be like having a second set of eyes — perfect eyes — on every image and scan a doctor uses to make diagnosis,” Boodoo said.

Boodoo estimates that up to 70 percent of all conditions may be diagnosed by imaging, from X-rays and ultrasounds to complex MRI and PET scans.

Diagnosis Protocol was one of eight projects to make it to the semifinal and one of four projects to make it to the final round, following a “Shark Tank”-style presentation to judges. It is the only winner of the People’s Choice Award, which was presented June 2 in National Harbor, Maryland, during the conference’s closing keynote address.

“This win validates the concept of a blockchain health care startup from the health care community,” Boodoo said. “To my knowledge, that hasn’t happened before at a medical conference. We are a very conservative group as an industry”

Boodoo and Alsadi say they hope to one day hold an ICO, or Initial Coin Offering — a fundraising mechanism in which new projects sell crypto tokens in exchange for bitcoin or ether.