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Impact of Block chain technology

Impact of Block chain technology
November 23, 2017

Co-author: Puneet Aggarwal

The Lifesciences and healthcare industry is growing fast and along with it the responsibility of protecting consumer’s private data. Recent ransomware attacks on Hospitals in UK and its unfolding ripple effects across the world has led many Payors, providers, Pharma companies among others to review their security practices. In the past, companies like Anthem, UCLA Health among many others have had to suffer innumerable loss to their revenues and reputation because of data breaches.

One major breakthrough in this regard is “Blockchain” which is a way of organizing data so that transactions can be verified and recorded through the consensus of all parties involved.

Blockchain enables securing PHI and medical records the way no other technology does right now

Hypothetically explained, it’s like a cage with a defined number of gates with a guard outside every gate. If a confidential and protected healthcare data (for e.g. Electronic Health Record of a patient) wants to leave the cage and go to its destination (For e.g. a hospital), all guards must give their consent before they open the gates and let it go.

How a patient’s private and confidential data is protected using Blockchain?

Let’s try to understand this via use case taking EHR of a patient as an example.

The impact of existing approach is:

  • Due to lack of interoperability, repeated diagnostic tests are conducted and also a lot inaccurate prescription of medications is given. According to premier healthcare alliance, this lack of interoperability costs about 150,000 lives and approximately $18.6 billion per year.
  • Missing of relevant clinical information leads to incorrect diagnosis and treatment plans which results in poor quality of care.
  • Providers lose track of patients which leads to unfavorable patient outcomes and high cost of treatment due to readmissions. Also providers typically can take up to 60 days to respond to a request for updating or removing a record that was erroneously added.

Due to the advantages and features mentioned above, Blockchain Technology presents unique opportunity to create secure and immutable information which will lead to decrease in cost, time and resources required to verify a suspicious transaction or breach.

A few startups have already started emerging in this domain including Gem, Factom and Guard Time. GuardTime has already implemented its Blockchain approach in Estonia, to secure million patient records. IBM Watson Health and U.S. Food and Drug Administration are collaborating to explore ways of exchanging patient level data from a number of different sources like EMR, clinical trials and genomic tests etc.

Though Blockchain in healthcare will take some more years to mature due to infrastructure costs and complexity involved in dealing with privacy regulations like HIPPA, nevertheless it has established its credibility as the future of data protection and transparency.