Blockchain Innovation for Healthcare - Peter Jonathan Wilcheck
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Blockchain Innovation for Healthcare

Blockchain has the potential to truly revolutionize the global healthcare industry. A blockchain is a distributed ledger in which information can be added to the blockchain, but never removed. All information stored on a blockchain is stored in basically an encrypted digital ledger. The healthcare industry today is the exact opposite of what a blockchain represents. Rather than data being distributed and securely encrypted, the healthcare industry is extremely centralized. This high degree of centralization means that valuable information is underutilized and siloed. The healthcare industry has mountains of information regarding medical records, complex billing forms, clinical trials, research and more. As a result, the sector has more information than they can process. With blockchain, however, this information within databases across the industry could be shared seamlessly to provide excellent patient care for every patient in the system. The technology offers a fresh approach to professional collaboration between doctors via the blockchain in order to improve patient outcomes.

Ultimately blockchain will allow greater immutability of records, transparency and a decentralized approach that creates a more accurate record keeping within the healthcare system.

Blockchain: A Single Version of Truth

A blockchain offers a single version of the truth. This is made possible by the fact that all data concerning medical records and other patient information will be immutable and secure at all times in a distributed ledger. The copies of data will be held by multiple secure sources. All digital transactions such as billing, medical records, patient data and other sensitive information will be protected with integrity. Blockchain technology can add transparency to different processes within the health sector whilst increasing confidentiality. Tracking methods will be improved by blockchain implementation and every single health interaction will be stored and used to make decisions regarding the patient’s wellbeing.

Interoperability Between Healthcare Providers

Blockchain for healthcare is combating issues of fragmented data, delayed and ineffective communications and disparate workflows within global health organizations through interoperability. Interoperability means that data can be shared between parties in a way that is secure and anonymous. The blockchain technology employed is extremely resilient and can create long-term transformations in the system.

Patient Profiling Through Secure Multi-Party Computation

Developments in the blockchain space regarding multi-party computation will help greatly with sharing and profiling patients. Multi-party computation uses a number of mathematical techniques to share valuable data without revealing the identity of an individual. For example, patient records could be shared between hospitals without ever revealing the individual they relate to. Blockchain technology is offering such innovations in healthcare as it gathers patients’ genetic profiles and tracks their demographic and socioeconomic status. Blockchain can also evaluate trends in patients’ behaviours and realize how different patients respond to a combination of certain treatments that have recently been administered by the health organization. The data that has been collected in the Blockchain can then be pieced together which enables ‘profile stitching’, whilst always withholding patient’s identity and protecting their data privacy.

Identifying Patterns: Combining Artificial Intelligence with Blockchain

Once data is collected in a decentralized ledger, this data then needs to be analysed. Obviously, this creates a huge challenge, due to the volume of data generated. AI implemented in a blockchain scenario is ideal for addressing the challenges that can arise with decentralization of all medical data. AI and machine learning can provide potential solutions to different health problems and the systems involved enable the care provider to offer the patient the very best care because of personalized data collection and analysis. This patient personalization via the blockchain can help the healthcare sector clarify who owns the medical data. Healthcare professional can then provide personalized medications and treatments to each patient based on the data they have collected on a regular basis. Most medical data is centralized in the healthcare sector, but now with the advancement in data technologies such as the Blockchain, it can easily be decentralized without any recurring issues with patient data storage, and medical record usage from one clinical practice to another.

Blockchain solutions can create unique opportunities and possibilities for the healthcare sector to reduce the complexity within their ecosystems. Blockchain can easily enable trust-less collaborations between all health providers for the patient in question. All data stored and shared about the patient will be completely secure and the patient’s information will be immutable.

Data Synchronization Through Blockchain:

Blockchains are basically distributed systems where data is logged and stored in an encrypted digital ledger. Doctors and other health providers will be able to access this decentralized database via electronic medical systems that are highly secure. These systems will create less administration time for doctors, thereby leaving them to provide longer and better patient care. The blockchain enables healthcare providers to research and shares their results. With all the information at hand in the database, it will help to facilitate new drug and treatment therapies for the sufferers of different diseases. Ease of access and secure privacy protection are two great benefits of blockchain technologies.

7 Key Benefits Blockchain Offers the Healthcare Industry:

  1. Consent management – Every state in the U.S. has different regulations concerning consent and data privacy issues. Applying blockchain solutions in the healthcare system is enabling health organizations to record real-time patient consent for the initial purpose of data sharing. In this new system, any third-party wishing to search for, and/or to exchange medical data/records concerning a patient can now check the blockchain to encrypt and retrieve patient data.
  2. Micropayments – patient incentives are gaining traction in today’s society, and if the patient was to follow a created care plan and keep all of their appointments helping them to stay healthy, there can be a rewards system in place that is offered to the patient for sticking to the set / targeted health regime by the clinical practice. These rewards are offered via the Blockchain, and the patient can be rewarded for their contributions and also for their data that is used in any clinical research and/or medical trials that the patient has completed.
  3. Medical data/records – Medical records concerning the patient are generated and signed by a professional via the blockchain. This will provide absolute proof of work and the confidence that the correct patient data has been recorded and stored by the healthcare organization caring for the patient. These records cannot be changed, so the integrity of the data is optimally ensured. This kind of storage concept can also be applied to clinical trials, and it can have an important impact on legal cases involving the health company and the patient if any issues arise. Basically, blockchain technologies enable healthcare providers to assure patient privacy. It also ensures the integrity of their medical records. There is one particular prototype for medical data management that is called MedRec. This technology is intended to increase productivity and to improve the use of medical records. Furthermore, it will allow these records to be accessed securely at any time by different health providers. This solution will help to reduce costs within the industry. Medical research and procedures can be distributed across different health facilities, enabling the potential for further breakthroughs by Blockchain deployment.
  4. Drug deployment and supply chain integrity – Blockchain technologies can help to facilitate new developments in drugs and treatments. This will be done by making patient tests and results widely accessible to all doctors and health providers who care for the patient. Once the patient has given permission for their data to be shared with their care providers, this data could reduce admin time and help the care provider understand what’s needed for that particular patient. The supply of drugs will also be made easier to control via the blockchain because of its integrity and encrypted security.
  5. Billing management and claims against healthcare providers – Medical fraud has caused more than $30 million in sector losses in the U.S. Blockchain will help to reduce these losses, and it will help to reduce admin costs for billing issues within the industry. This will be done by eliminating the need for intermediaries, by using automated billing and claims processing. All claims against the healthcare provider can be logged and it hold all the data that is required. This will assure every claim is dealt with accordingly.
  6. Clinical trials and medical research – With the possibility of clinical tests and results being decentralized and new treatment programs being implemented via the blockchain comes the possibility to improve both patient care and patient outcomes. Blockchain technologies can provide the health sector with ease of access towards making medical breakthroughs and new important innovations during medical research and clinical trials.
  7. Data security – With the exponential growth of connected devices on open networks, healthcare associations are struggling to keep their database systems secure from cyber attacks. Blockchain technologies can provide the solution as it will keep all infrastructure highly secure, and all health data will always be encrypted, kept private and fully protected.

Interoperability – Blockchain technology is an enabler of interoperability. It can provide a shared roadmap of medical data and patient records with ease of access by all the patient’s healthcare providers when the patient’s information is needed. This interoperability also provides an omnipresent and secure network infrastructure within the blockchain. It can verify and identify all participants and patients via AI and machine learning, whilst authenticating all the medical data collected. Interoperability will provide consistency and verifications from health professionals to ensure such ease of access of all electronic data and records about the patient.

The Impact on the Current Health Industry

Blockchain applications can solve many of the issues plaguing the current healthcare system by placing the patient at the very center of the healthcare ecosystem. Blockchain applications can increase doctor and patient privacy and strengthen medical data security. This can be achieved while providing the possibility for all data to be gathered, stored and shared with different health providers. The technology can and will provide a sophisticated model for health information exchanges within the care sector. Medical records will be electronically efficient and extremely secure at all times. The health information exchange can be powered by the blockchain technology, which will unlock the value behind true interoperability. Blockchain-based systems can offer cost-cutting opportunities within the health industry and they can have widespread and positive implications for all patients and even healthcare stakeholders in the sector.

Blockchain: Reducing Complexity in the Healthcare Industry

Establishing a blockchain framework within the infrastructure of the health sector is an opportunity not to be missed. Early adopters of such advanced technology applications such as blockchain will certainly experience many benefits form the data stored in caring for the patient. Blockchain for healthcare is a technology-enabled mechanism of trust which will affect the way that all data and information is managed and shared. The healthcare sector is due for a positive transformation, and blockchain technology can help the industry realize that transformation in the near future. Albeit, these advanced database technologies are still in the prototype stage, the future of the healthcare sector may rely on Blockchain implementation to help them to deal with the wealth of continuous data and to extract more value from all patient information. Medical management will be improved by implementing Blockchain applications into the sector and organizational infrastructures.

Blockchain: A Revolution in Healthcare

Revolutionary changes are needed in the field of healthcare and blockchain technologies can create those changes. The technology can help the health sector to progress into the future with confidence. As blockchain growth escalates, it will help care providers to reach higher levels of patient care. A quality healthcare service is needed, and to provide a quality service the health sector must be backed up by the latest technologies such as blockchain applications with AI and machine learning capabilities. These technologies will help the health services to provide a patient orientated approach. Affordable treatment and quality health facilities are major elements, and blockchain technology can reduce costs in other areas to help focus on those two major elements of healthcare. The focus on quality health care services should always remain superior and patient health management must be at the core and forefront of all healthcare providers.

Healthcare’s Struggle with Regulations

However, the sector is struggling to cope with all the different rules and regulations that are also making the management process more tedious and at times, an extremely lengthy process. The wealth of information that is stored by health care providers still remains scattered across different departments within the industries systems. Therefore, crucial medical data can be a struggle to access and hard to attain the true value of that data. Process management will be made easier by implementing blockchain technology into the healthcare sectors ecosystems. The already outdated systems that are still in use in the health sector will become a thing of the past, and patient record keeping and other sensitive information held by the provider will become more functional. The care providers can then focus on maintaining a quality patient orientated service.

Blockchain and Productivity in The Healthcare Industry:

Productivity will be increased and improved across all industries within the health sector by the blockchain. Certain limitations will be lifted by technologically advanced systems within the sector. Blockchain for healthcare will also make the sector economically efficient and easily operable. The technology is one of the most disruptive technologies to date, and it is surely an innovation trigger that will help health providers to offer a far better service to the patient. All patient transactions and health activities will be logged in a distributed ledger across the sector’s systems and networks. All data within the ledger will be encryption secured, and any changes made to one block of data will need to be changed to all the other subsequent blocks as is mandated by the protocol. This provides even more privacy protection and extra security for the patients and their medical information.

Blockchain’s Power to Unlock Medical Breakthroughs at all Levels:

Blockchain implementation has the power to unlock huge breakthroughs in medical discoveries and within the healthcare ecosystem. The healthcare management processing of patients will be improved exponentially with the aid of blockchain technology. It truly holds the ability to increase productivity within the health sector and to improve all aspects of patient care whilst maintaining the capability to constantly reduce sector costs at a substantial rate. And the challenges that can often occur within the process of multiple level authentication can also be eliminated by blockchain implementation throughout the health care sector. There are plans by many different health care providers to implement the blockchain into their ecosystems as a solution. Around 56% of health providers are expected to adopt Blockchain technology by the year 2020.

Conclusion:

There is a comprehensive vision from health care executives that blockchain technologies will positively disrupt the healthcare sector. Blockchain will help to resolve many tedious and time-consuming tasks, whilst providing a secure service to the patient. This means resolving issues concerning the current systems and with problems due to data storage and data extraction methods that the sector often experiences. Blockchain technologies will allow the creation and sharing of a singular database that can be used by all health care providers. The systems the health sector use will be easily accessible by all entities that are involved in the process of care for the patient no matter which electronic medical system that they may currently use. Therefore, the patient will benefit from this direct interaction between the care providers. Blockchain for healthcare will revolutionize the sector and all of its different industries.

Peter Jonathan Wilcheck – December 2018

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