Healthcare in Blockchain: Can The Coming DApps Solve for Healthcare Silos?
The most meaningful impact of digital currencies has been lost in the hype over BitCoin’s valuation that took a 90 degree turn up the chart in 2017. Whether or not we are witnessing a bubble of historic proportions is not the point. With the genesis of blockchain and the recent innovation of Ethereum, an open-source, public decentralized network, an opportunity exists to redefine the ownership of healthcare information and improve health outcomes.
Bitcoin’s brilliance was figuring out how to use a decentralized network to secure transactions, thus circumventing the monetary control of the central banks. To accomplish this, a public ledger or “blockchain,” was created to record every transaction. Because blockchain allows information to be stored, encrypted and authenticated on a peer-to-peer network, it presents specific advantages over traditional centralized models.
The centralized models of today’s health information landscape result in siloed data that fails patients. The inability of hospitals, clinics and physician offices to share information in an efficient and timely manner, results in terrible outcomes. Poor sharing of critical patient information is one of the leading drivers of healthcare costs. Divergent health information systems, simply don’t play nicely with each other. Organizations consider patient data as their own, a rich source of monetization for cash hungry entities. The fundamental problem here is people, not organizations should create, curate, control and monetize their own health information. Because blockchain allows information “(an asset) to exist in one place, at one time with certainty,” it will be the foundation for a wave of technology solving problems across healthcare. In short, blockchain provides the necessary technical platform to manage you and your families health information throughout your life. A coming wave of applications built on blockchain will become the means to securely and easy share health information among stakeholders.
The lack of a central controlling authority within a secure platform provides the necessary foundation to build innovative DApps (Decentralized Apps) in healthcare. DApps that empower People will finally have with the technical infrastructure necessary to take ownership over their health information without organizations having to get involved. Healthcare in blockchain is really about revolutionizing who owns, accesses and benefits from personal healthcare data. It has the potential to put the ownership of healthcare information back to the people. The open ledger (blockchain) ensures the unlike traditional systems, people can ultimately control the keys to their “health blockchain,” allowing secure access to information that can be shared seamlessly to providers. Providers could be critical nodes on the healthcare blockchain allowing patients to share information regardless of internal data system constraints. Healthcare on blockchain would allow researchers to submit biometric requirements to a marketplace of patients who could be paid in digital currency for access to important information. A population for a clinical study could be isolated and contacted within minutes instead of currently taking many months or even years.
Many crypto experts would argue that storing information in blockchain is too expensive to maintain data of any size. Currently, the cost issue is undoubtedly true. However, like all technologies costs will be reduced as more and more DApps dot the Ethereum landscape. A person’s health information has real value and technical developments in blockchain could, overtime shift the cost curve in favor of individual users. A great first start would be to use blockchain to authenticate stakeholders and facilitate the secure sharing of patient manner using more traditional means.
Even facing the headwinds generated by the hype vs. the currently reality of healthcare in blockchain, DApps have the potential to finally free critical patient data from the provider siloes. This is a critical requirement to fixing healthcare in the United States.