With Monsoons of Data, Healthcare's Salvation Just May Be Blockchain

Jill Richmond

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For almost a decade, hospitals have been waiting for Electronic Health Records to usher in a bright and shiny new era of standardization and high-quality health care. But while federal laws and incentive programs have made health care data more accessible, the vast majority of hospital systems still can't easily (or safely) share their data. As a result, doctors are spending more time typing than actually talking to patients. It's literally burning them out. Physician burnouts jumped from 45 to 54 percent between 2011 and 2014, according to a Mayo Clinic study. What is the number one thing those doctors would change? Streamlining the EHR process.

Beyond this, closed book-keeping and medical record repositories prevent effective interoperability and collaboration between different healthcare providers. This unfortunate setback is mission-critical for people who might be sick when traveling, for instance, or relocate and simply cannot retrieve basic medical records.  

Getting the "it" right in what needs to change is about building patient-centric models in healthcare that can transform lives and unify disparate stories which enable a longitudinal health journal.  And the most popular strategy circulating among healthcare technologists is blockchain.

For a quick refresher, blockchain is the distributed accounting platform that makes cryptocurrencies like bitcoin possible. While blockchain is best known for powering bitcoin, it's really a generic tool to keep secure data in a distributed, cryptographically secure ledger-and control who has access to that ledger. Rather than having one central administrator that acts as a gatekeeper to data-a list of digital transactions-there's one shared ledger, but it's spread across a network of synchronized, replicated databases visible to anyone with access, which gives it unprecedented security benefits. Hacking one block in the chain is impossible without simultaneously hacking every other block in the chain's chronology. This makes blockchain incredibly appealing to the doctors and hospitals that need secure access to a patient's entire health history.

In essence, something that was built and designed to control structures of finance is now solving the larger problems in the world. Consider that 20 percent of  the total US health expenditure is pure economic waste. So a technology that was principally built for finance can now solve some of the most prescient issues of our time.  With some of the most interesting rainmakers in healthcare below.

Blockchain's primary strengths, particularly in the healthcare sector, are grounded in its security and how it makes HIPAA compliance feasible for patients and providers. From ensuring the confidentiality of patients' electronic health information to identifying security threats and protecting against disclosures and pure reconciliation.
Patientory's use of blockchain technology helps affiliated healthcare organizations achieve zero data breaches. It achieves HIPAA Security Rules by maintaining a security compliance team, protecting relevant electronic systems and using encryption to control data access.

The company aims to deliver population-health management solutions that assist healthcare organizations in boosting clinical outcomes through physician-coordinated care. A patient-centered protocol supported by blockchain technology, Patientory is changing the way patients manage their health histories and interact with clinical care teams.  Being able to coordinate care essentially alleviates unnecessary services and duplicate tests with lowering costs and improvements in efficiencies in continuum care.

In speaking with Perianne Boring, Founder & President of the Chamber of Digital Commerce, "Healthcare offers one of the greatest and most immediate opportunities for blockchain technology to make an impact. The current system has not evolved to match the complex needs of modern patients, and the demand for greater data security and reduced costs has never been more apparent. We've dedicated a large part of our DC Blockchain Summit to furthering the adoption of blockchain in healthcare, including co-sponsoring the Blockchain in Healthcare Code-A-Thon with HHS/ONC, which is the first ever blockchain code-a-thon sponsored by a U.S. government agency. This is truly a historic milestone for the industry."

Capital One worked with Gem (a company whose tagline is to make complex data sharing simple) in late 2016 to deliver a successful prototype of the full life cycle of a medical claim on the blockchain.  "We believe this technology - combined with our client-centric approach to understanding our clients' needs - will not only help healthcare providers and payers more efficiently and securely manage healthcare claims, but also could be applied to other aspects of the healthcare revenue cycle to overcome system interoperability challenges that have been an industry pain point for decades." Patrick Moore, Executive Vice President and Head of Capital One's Treasury Management's Product Management group.

Gem, also launched Gem Health, a network for developing applications and shared infrastructure for healthcare powered by the Ethereum blockchain, and announced that Philips Blockchain Lab, a research and development center of healthcare giant Philips, was the first major healthcare operator to join the Gem Health network.
The company intends to leverage blockchain technology to address this enormous trade-off between patient-centric care and operational efficiency by creating a healthcare ecosystem connected to universal data infrastructure. The Gem Health blockchain network includes identity schemes, data storage, and smart contracts applications that execute against shared data infrastructure.

Gem Founder and CEO Micah Winkelspecht, who is bullish on the healthcare industry's faster adoption, said, "The industry is staring at a giant wall of new types of data and the gravity of patient records is a matter of life and death. The current systems are in crisis mode and are woefully unprepared for this real trifecta of big data analytics , IoT and machine learning, they have zero infrastructure. There really is an enormous opportunity here if we can just leverage it. Healthcare is going to adopt a lot faster than finance because the pain and the opportunity is a lot greater and we have witnessed some of the most disrupted players be the first at the table.  A blockchain to run the entire healthcare continuum: the free and instant transfer of healthcare data."

Jill Richmond is a two-time founder, Marketing and Innovation Strategist and Founder of Moonshots Media Consulting. Follow her on Twitter.

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