When Deloitte published its “Blockchain: Opportunities for health care” report in 2016, the consultancy identified three key pillars of potential blockchain disruption for the industry: smart contracts, value transfer and information authentication.
In the short years since the release of that report, the healthcare sector has certainly begun exploring blockchain. Most recently, a consortium of healthcare payers and providers formed to develop a blockchain proof of concept.
But as more healthcare-related blockchain projects emerge, it’s clear the sector sees more value in data management, rather than healthcare payments, when considering distributed ledger technology.
This week’s Blockchain Tracker examines the most recent developments in healthcare’s quest to adopt blockchain. While Deloitte predicted significant potential for the technology to streamline payments in the industry, the latest news shows industry stakeholders are banking on blockchain to overhaul information management instead.
While the increasing use of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) means fewer medical errors and more reliable data on patients, physician Robert Pearl, M.D., recently penned an article in Forbes highlighting the potential for healthcare providers to enhance the effectiveness of EHRs using blockchain. The problem with EHRs, Dr. Pearl explained, is that information is often sent to providers via fax, and management of those records can be a challenge.
“To avoid medical errors and improve quality outcomes, all the physicians we see should have access to our medical information, provided that information is kept private and secure,” he wrote. “Blockchain technology can facilitate these requirements.”
There are massive hurdles to achieving a blockchain-powered health record system, he added, including the reluctancy among healthcare providers to migrate existing records onto a new platform.
In the U.S., healthcare giants are exploring how to make headway on using blockchain for more efficient health data management — though they’re focused on healthcare provider data, not patient data.
Several industry conglomerates — Humana, Optum, MultiPlan, Quest Diagnostics and UnitedHealth — revealed a collaboration last week to develop a blockchain pilot to address inefficiencies in healthcare provider directory data management. These healthcare payers and providers manage their own proprietary directories, reports in The Motley Fool explained, but blockchain may be able to unify those directories.
Reports urged caution, however, with the alliance forming simply to explore whether it might even be possible for blockchain to streamline these databases. Still, according to separate reports in CoinIdol, the collaboration said in a statement that it wants to address “a critical, complex and difficult issue facing organizations across the healthcare system,” with current data management techniques reportedly costing these organizations more than $2.1 billion.
Senior Director of Marketing and Communications for MultiPlan, Pam Walker, recently told PYMNTS that 52 percent of provider directory locations listed have at least one inaccuracy in the form of incorrect addresses, phone numbers or other misinformation.
“We believe that a permissioned blockchain is the most suitable approach for our pilot,” Walker said. “A permissioned blockchain will enable the alliance to confidently manage participation on our blockchain while providing us the flexibility to install the blockchain across our alliance member enterprises … In order to measure the true value of this approach, the alliance intends to use a geographic subset of production data in that assessment.”
Supply Chain Management
The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) wants to deploy blockchain to enhance supply chain visibility for the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector.
Specifically, reports in FactorDaily said this week the government wants a proof of concept for a blockchain-powered tool to combat fake medicines in the supply chain. NITI Aayog, a thinktank, explained that it is exploring how blockchain might be able to track the “hierarchy of barcodes” that are scanned through each step in the supply chain.
According to reports, while estimates vary, analysis from Assocham says one in five drugs are fake in India, with those fraudulent medicines either illegal copycats of legitimate brands or products with no clinical efficacy. The nation’s Central Drugs Standard Contral Organization said between 0.05 percent and 0.3 percent of drugs are fake, and the World Health Organization estimates that more than 10 percent of drugs in low and middle-income countries, which includes India, are substandard.