There are frequent articles referring to blockchain and a how it can be utilized in different sectors, more recently, its implications for healthcare. With the US reportedly spending near to 20% of its GDP on healthcare, blockchain technology might be called upon sooner than later to streamline and improve services in the industry.
Forbes writer Randy Bean recently spoke to industry professionals about this trend. John Halamka, chief information officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, a Harvard University teaching hospital, was one. He has the necessary connections to discuss blockchain, having already worked on several production blockchain applications last year. He commented:
“Blockchain is not meant for storage of large data sets. Blockchain is not an analytics platform. Blockchain has very slow transactional performance. However, as a tamperproof public ledger, blockchain is ideal for proof of work. Blockchain is highly resilient.”
Halamak is also editor-in-chief of Blockchain of Healthcare Today, and he points out that it’s his job to publish “high-quality opinion pieces and research papers” about cases that really need blockchain. He said, “Just using blockchain in healthcare because it’s cool does not make sense.”
The main areas, as he sees it, where blockchain can impact healthcare. fall into three distinct areas; medical records, consent management and micropayments.
In terms of keeping medical records, what blockchain really lends to this is a sense of integrity due to the irrefutable nature of the information once generated on the blockchain. This includes clinical trials where the results will remain tamper-free and stand up under legal examination.
Consent management principally includes the sharing of data between a number of participants and those not listed on a blockchain on a particular case can be easily identified just as those permitted to view a medical file would have authorized access.
In terms of patient incentives, the blockchain can also attach awards related to a patient committing to and completing a certain medical process or term of treatment, or even rewarded for medical trials.
Another industry professional, Greg Matthews, creator of MDigitalLife, a platform for tracking digital trends in healthcare, suggests that blockchain could be really significant in terms of that way it can give medical professionals a clear view of the bigger picture of a patients health. He points out:
“Blockchain could make the biggest impact in healthcare in enabling health outcomes that take a 360° view of the patient’s genetic profile, their demographic and socioeconomic status, the behaviours that impact their health, and their response to different treatments or combinations of treatments.”
He argues that today this is not so easy using tradition data storage methods:
“This data exists today in one form or another, but can be tremendously difficult to stitch together at an individual level. Blockchain can enable “profile stitching”, and do so in such a way that the patient’s identity is protected.”
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