Blockchain in Healthcare

By: Laura Marissa Cullell
Senior Blockchain Consultant

Healthcare Rallies for Blockchain, a study from IBM, found that 16% of surveyed healthcare executives had solid plans to implement a commercial blockchain solution this year, while 56% expected to by 2020. IBM Healthcare companies, tech innovators and the rest of the healthcare industry are grappling with what’s possible now and what blockchain could solve in the future.

Here at BlockXLabs, we love exploring unique and different uses for Blockchain Technology. Part I explored just some of the use cases of this innovative tech in the oil and gas industry. Part II saw the possibilities for blockchain in the Music Industry. Part III will look at the possibilities of blockchain in healthcare.

Innovating the Healthcare Industry

According to IBM, Blockchain has the potential to propel innovation in preventative care and community-based healthcare models. The capacity of a distributed ledger technology for ensuring data integrity while sharing between parties can ensure collaboration between rising trends in healthcare, which are vital to the improvement of health in communities worldwide.

IBM’s research states that Blockchain can tie together a complex team-based healthcare, finance and payment with the care provided along with it. They argue that the inherent properties of cryptographic public and private key access, proof of work and distributed data, creates a new level of integrity for healthcare information. IBM believes that blockchain technology also makes it easy to track a drug as it moves from the manufacturer to the patient. This improves the traceability of a drug as it moves across the supply chain, and helps prevent drug counterfeiting.

Dataconomy’s Ryan Ayers states that having an open blockchain for medical data can prove useful as most healthcare data now is segregated amongst different providers, who often use different database systems. For example, in the city of Boston alone, there are 26 different systems used for electronic medical records. Each system has its own “language” and crucial information is often scattered and inaccessible, which is very dangerous in an industry where even a few extra seconds or minutes to obtain critical information could be the different between life or death for a patient. Ayers believes that by having blockchain systems built for healthcare, important healthcare-related data can be more easily accessible amongst healthcare providers, which can lead to better and faster treatment.

Ayers states that like a blockchain, healthcare data is usually not distributed or stored on various computers, which can not only result in one party being able to manipulate information but also a single point of failure that makes healthcare data systems easy targets for hackers and other malicious individuals. He further argues that hospitals and healthcare systems have become a prime target for ransomware attacks for this reason. If information was distributed and stored amongst various parties, such attacks wouldn’t be as easy.

Current and Potential Uses of Blockchains in Healthcare

MedRec, one prototype using blockchains, is intended to improve electronic medical records and allow patients’ records to be accessed securely by any provider who needs it solving the waste of time, money and duplication in procedures, confusion and sometimes even life-threatening issue of records being distributed across many different facilities and providers. The goal with MedRec is to give patients and their providers one-stop access to their entire medical history across all providers they have ever seen. Additionally, if patients wish to grant access to their personal medical records to researchers, their data would be provided anonymously to be used in research which could make medical breakthroughs possible faster than they are now. This pioneer in the field shows the potential for how dramatically things could change in healthcare by deploying blockchains.

Robomed Network is a decentralized medical network designed to provide the most effective medical care. The project’s uniqueness lies in connecting healthcare service providers and patients, based on a smart contract, the value criteria of which are the clinical pathways. This particular breakthrough concept of focusing on patient outcomes is brand new to the healthcare market. In other words, Robomed Network is the first system where the patient pays for the result and not the medical process itself. Launched first in Russia and Dubai, Robomed boasts nearly 9,000 patients, 30,500 services and nearly $2 million worth of services. As the healthcare market continues to shift to value-based care (payment for results instead of payment for number of procedures), solutions such as Robomed that bridge the gap between provider and patient, will continue to gain traction.

SimplyVital Health launched in February 2017, and started with what they considered a practical implementation of blockchain: an audit trail. Their product, ConnectingCare brings providers together from different clinical organizations onto the same platform, where they can view the same data for shared patients. Financial and clinical algorithms powered by AI provide actionable strategic opportunities for all users. Together, providers work to drive down the cost of care, which means providers are paid for working together and for results. Because reimbursement depends on the ability to prove they worked together, the immutable audit trail provides extra upside for the users.

Now with a track record of credibility, SimplyVital Health is building Health Nexus: the blockchain infrastructure and protocol they hope will be safely adoptable by healthcare. A fork of ethereum, the offering combines a new validation and governance protocol focusing on HIPAA compliance and a key pair system built into the protocol for safe data sharing. Their first goal is linking and growing ConnectingCare, and then developing healthcare data marketplace, which is the most requested feature by their community.

Blockchain: Not a Cure-all Solution but an important first step

Bernard Marr of Forbes states that although there are some incredibly exciting ways blockchains can enhance healthcare operations, it won’t be a cure-all for the industry today, but it would certainly be a step in the right direction. He believes that the healthcare industry is drowning in data — clinical trials, patient medical records, complex billing, medical research and more. Marr argues that adoption and implementation of blockchains will be an evolution over time as blockchains applications are vetted and adopted as well as the industry coming together to determine collaboration and governance issues.he full possibilities of what may transpire in the future is unknown at this time. However, as quoted in a Wired article, “Now is probably the right time in our history to take a fresh approach to data sharing in health care,” says John Halamka, chief information officer at Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Do you have any questions regarding blockchain in healthcare? Let us know in the comments below or contact resident Blockchain Consultant Laura Marissa Cullell at lcullell@blockxlabs.com.

BlockX Labs builds developer tools for blockchain ecosystems. We also focus on building solutions for private/public blockchains. More info @ www.blockxlabs.com