Blockchain: Catalyst for New Healthcare Ecosystem
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Healthcare needs a way to share data, uncover patterns leading to better patient outcomes, and discover models for care that work securely and cost-effectively.
By Florian Quarre and Adam Israel
With billions spent on unnecessary services, excessive administrative costs, fraud and other issues, the healthcare industry is also continually hit by cyber-attacks. Recently, a massive ransomware attack hit the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, and it's among many other industries across the globe. Breaches alone can cost healthcare organizations billions of dollars, and recovery from such hits can take years to unwind.
Beyond the security challenge, the healthcare industry is under pressure to find a way to share information, uncover patterns that lead to better patient outcomes, and discover new models for care that can work for everyone in a more secure and cost-effective way. The healthcare blockchain could be the game changer that makes all this possible.
While blockchain is a fairly new concept, a recent Deloitte survey found that 35 percent of healthcare and life sciences respondents plan to deploy blockchain in production within the next calendar year.
At its core, a healthcare blockchain is a data repository of patient-related events. Transactions—everything from diagnoses and surgeries, to prescribed drugs and claim history—are permanently recorded, linked and augmented to continuously generate patient-specific insights. A blockchain system has no central authority, which is critical to its success.
Here are three ways blockchain promises to deliver value across the healthcare ecosystem: It’s shared and complete. Because the system is decentralized, it offers transparency. It’s also highly secure. Once a transaction is contained within a block and chained to other blocks, it is everlasting, creating an exhaustive healthcare events trail that can be resistant to changes.
1. Medical records can be shared without sacrificing privacy, bringing significant cost savings.
Participants exchange data and transaction records that are stored and distributed across all ecosystem participants connected to the network: doctors, insurers, pharmas and the patient. Whoever rightfully owns the keys can access the information, and that access can be repudiated instantly. Rules verify that the data is true, so it’s trusted.
This integrated care ecosystem means care providers are exchanging the most accurate and up-to-date medical information and analytics about each patient, enabling the proper type of care at the right time. Faster action could lead to dollars saved. Thorough information could lead to predictive diagnoses, fewer costly procedures and the prevention of duplicating tests.
In addition, patients can see and access their own records and decide who (family members, select providers, pharmas or caretakers) gets access to what. With patients in control, privacy can be achieved. And, maybe most importantly, existing electronic medical records (EMRs) and health information exchanges (HIEs) are empowered, not disrupted.
Providers integrating their systems into a blockchain can continue to store information from each patient interaction in their EMR and select which information should make its way to the blockchain. Medical interoperability extends to both internal and external systems, and that can save big on integration and record-keeping costs.
2. Researchers will work with much richer datasets.
More complete and transparent sets of patient information provide the entire healthcare ecosystem with opportunities to perform advanced analyses to push the definition of accurate diagnoses, effective care plans and high-performing drugs. Blockchain is a critical piece to enabling these opportunities.
For example, it promises to give a longitudinal view of the patient. Patient transactions and care outcomes are fed around-the-clock to the open blockchain ledger. By creating an identity-protected repository of data that different ecosystem players can leverage for cognitive analytics and machine learning, blockchain has the potential to uncover previously unknown insights at scale.
Providers can instantly compare the symptoms of their immediate patients with others to determine the optimal care plan, while continuously monitoring and analyzing their patient outcomes as they interact with other care providers. In addition, precision medicine is redefined. The holistic patient data set provides pharmas with the tools to help pinpoint demographic groups with similar characteristics in order to design new drugs and perform clinical trials on the patients that have the right symptoms.