A new report out by CBInsights.com focuses on where and how blockchain is likely to be integrated into healthcare. In it they forecast growth and possible evolutionary paths in the short, medium, and long term.
Here is a brief summary of some report findings…
A few examples where blockchain will be applied are:
- Managing provider data
- Managing supply chain e.g. tracking drugs
- Managing patient data
- Managing insurance claims
Blockchain could solve some of the healthcare’s biggest inefficiencies and problems with…
- Systems interoperability
- Data security
- Data privacy & control
- Supply chain tracking
- Patient ownership and access to health data
Integrating blockchain technology into healthcare will be slow. Like any new technology it will be implemented and accepted in stages where proofs of concept evolve into practical application.
Short Term: pilot projects focusing on back office operations and provider data, small scale, no patient data.
Mid Term: scalable systems focusing on health supply chain stakeholders, some patient data
Long Term: patient-centric systems with healthcare records fully integrated, owned and accessed by patients
Short term projects will prevent duplicate work by sharing provider data via blockchain. Patient data is not included because of the sensitive nature and HIPPA compliance concerns.
With blockchain, a universal distributed data set exists across all databases so there are no issues with duplicate records. It also reduces vulnerability to tampering and makes the data much more accessible, rather than being trapped in disparate networks and accounting systems.
Below is a short snippet of the report intro and some cherry picked info graphics (emphasis added)…
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Why blockchain for healthcare?
- Why now?
- Short-term applications
- Healthcare consortia & managing provider information
- Drug supply chain
- Medium-term applications
- Claims management, payments, & prior authorization
- Health information exchanges & research data
- Research & trial design
- Long-term applications
- Universal identities, patient health records, & app services
- The road ahead
The healthcare industry is plagued by inefficiencies, errors, bureaucracy, and high administrative costs.
For all the hype, there’s no question that blockchain’s distributed ledger technology can offer real value for the healthcare industry.
Blockchain could help solve some of the industry’s most pressing compliance, interoperability, and data security issues, as well as enable new patient-centric business models.
But unlocking blockchain’s potential for healthcare will be a slow process, and change is unlikely to come fast.
In this report, we analyze where blockchain is likely to be integrated into healthcare in the short, medium, and long term, based on known stakeholders, scalability requirements, and necessary safeguards.
Some of the most exciting projects involve thewholesale reimagining of how healthcare data is accessed and owned — though realistically, this is a far-off possibility.
More immediately, we could seesimplification of back-office operations and improved traceability in the supply chain.
Below, we’ll explore the projects already underway, and what future applications might look like.
Startups working with blockchain and cryptocurrencies have the potential to create “trustless” networks and fundamentally change the way markets transact. Look for Blockchain in the Collections tab.
Blockchain technology allows for transparent, peer-managed, secure data tracking across computing devices, and creates a public, chronological database.
Blockchain has potential to offer new solutions in healthcare because it is:
Consistent:With blockchain, data can’t differ across databases because there is one single record. This reduces issues with duplicate or tampered data and makes the data itself much more accessible, rather than trapping it in different organizations’ record-keeping systems.
Append–only:Users can only add transactions to a database, making everything traceable and auditable.
Ownable:An entity can “own” data and choose who gets to access it. Instead of a company selling someone’s data to a third party, that person can control where their data goes.
Clear rules:One version of the database is used, and the rules about it are known. (The lack of data standards and master records in healthcare has created fragmentation and frustration across the industry.)
Decentralized:Copies of the database are kept in multiple places and no third-party needs to exist as an administrator. This reduces overhead and the need for middlemen (which healthcare has in spades). This also prevents centralized systems from becoming completely locked down and inaccessible.
These qualities are great for institutions or patients handling health data. Blockchain makes data harder to tamper with and easier to share between parties is easier. There are also many cybersecurity benefits, including traceability and the ability to verify who has accessed certain data.
Money began pouring into the blockchain space in 2017, largely due to Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), where companies would sell tokens attributed to their company. This included several healthcare companies.
Cryptocurrency prices and ICO hype have since slowed dramatically. However, equity funding to blockchain companies is rising fast.
On earnings calls, “blockchain” has skyrocketed in mentions, though rarely in the context of healthcare. Most healthcare companies that mention blockchain do so in a exploratory or pilot project capacity.
Patents that mention “blockchain” or “distributed ledger” for healthcare applications have also begun to tick upward, as highlighted in this CBI platform patent search. IBM, Walmart, Bank of America, and several others are looking at different applications of blockchain across emergency response, compliance, and data-sharing agreements.
Most of the initial healthcare applications for blockchain and distributed ledger technology are focused around closed consortia and back-office operations that don’t involve patient data.
HEALTHCARE CONSORTIA & MANAGING PROVIDER INFORMATION
Corporations are taking their first steps into blockchain-based projects by joining small, closed consortia that use distributed ledger systems or permissioned blockchains to keep data among the companies involved.
Initial projects aim to prevent duplicated work by sharing data via distributed ledger systems. However, none of these projects focuses on patient data, because it is so sensitive.
One project has involved UnitedHealthcare, Optum, Quest Diagnostics, Humana, and Multiplan joining together to make sure their provider directories are up to date. (The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) fines insurers if their provider information is not current.)
By sharing this provider information with each other, these companies can reduce work, since data is stored and updated in a shared, accessible database.
Hashed Health is working on several projects with smaller consortia. For example, the company is developing a credential verification system for physicians to prove they’re licensed to operate in certain areas.
Currently, physicians have to go through a separate credentialing process for each institution and state they plan to work in, a process which can take 30 — 90 days for each institution.
This process could be faster, simpler, and cheaper if there was a shared record of a physician’s credentials accessible by all parties authorized by the physician. A blockchain-based system could enable that, giving physicians the private key to grant access to whichever institution is asking for credentials.
Images and article snippet courtesy of CBinsights.com
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