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Healthcare Blockchain Could Solve Industry’s Biggest Problems

Healthcare blockchain could solve some of the biggest problems in healthcare, such as compliance, interoperability, and data security issues, according to a recent study by CB Insights.

healthcare blockchain

Source: Thinkstock

By Fred Donovan

- Healthcare blockchain could solve some of the biggest problems in healthcare, such as compliance, interoperability, and data security issues, according to a recent study by CB Insights.

The report looked at healthcare blockchain use cases in the short, medium, and long term.

In the short term, healthcare blockchain could help simplify back-office operations, enhance organizations’ ability to track products in the supply chain, and improve information storage and verification.

Some healthcare care consortiums have already formed to take advantage of blockchain technology by using distributed ledger systems to share data among members.

The Synaptic Health Alliance, made up of Humana, MultiPlan, Optum, Quest Diagnostics, and UnitedHealthcare, plans to apply blockchain to ensure that the most up-to-date information about healthcare providers is available in the provider directories. 

The pilot is examining how sharing data across healthcare organizations using blockchain technology can boost data accuracy, streamline administration, reduce costs, and improve access to care.

In addition, Hashed Health has launched several healthcare blockchain initiatives, including one involving GHX, Accenture, Martin Ventures, and Change Healthcare. That initiative is using blockchain protocols to verify if a healthcare provider is licensed for its services and location.

At the recent Distributed: Health conference held in Nashville, Change Healthcare Product Director Emily Vaughn observed: “What we're really trying to do is bring the first smart contract platform to healthcare. What we see is an opportunity to build development tools to allow for healthcare's engineers to quickly design and build blockchain applications.”

Hashed Health CEO John Bass added, “If you think about 2016, it was all about community building … 2017 was a lot of enterprise work, a lot of conversations with big insurance companies, big pharma companies … about how enterprises could get involved. Now, in 2018, we've seen this shift … The shift that I've noticed is that the conversations are much more mature, the audience is much more mature, the level of thought, the practicality … is much more advanced and much more mature than what we've seen in the past.”

In the medium term, CBI Insights predicts that healthcare blockchain will be used to improve claims management, payment, and prior authorization; health information exchange and research data; and research and trial design.

In the long term, healthcare blockchain could be used to manage universal identities, patient health records, and application services.

Healthcare blockchain can improve data security

“Cybersecurity is also a massive issue, considering how expensive healthcare data breaches are ... A blockchain ledger would create audit trails of who accessed a health record, creating more accountability,” the report observed.

As an example of blockchain being used to improve data security and patient privacy, Donor Concierge and ALTR announced in October a partnership that will employ blockchain technology to secure health data and patient privacy for FRTYL, a service that links fertility agencies and clinics with parents seeking infertility treatments.

Using ALTR’s data-security platform, FRTYL will be able to store and retrieve data, as well as anonymize it so that it can be used as a trusted resource that protects the identity and authenticity of participants.

FRTYL’s database includes a repository of surrogates and more than 15,000 egg donors. Sensitive information in the database includes family health history, sexual health history, drug and alcohol use, previous egg donation cycle history, and personal genetic carrier information.

“There is so much sensitive information about the donors and surrogates in the third-party fertility field that we believe security is extremely important. Beyond HIPAA compliance, we are interested in working with ALTR because it is the only company that offers blockchain technology for data,” said Donor Concierge Founder Gail Sexton Anderson.

ALTR said its technology is the first commercial software package that applies blockchain to data security. The technology provides an interoperable network infrastructure that ensures control over how patient data is seen or used and by whom.

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