Venky Ananth, vice president and regional head of healthcare at Infosys, discusses Blockchain’s role in the healthcare world
Blockchain could have a hugely-positive impact on healthcare services
The healthcare industry is going through an exciting phase as it moves from being supply driven towards a demand-driven consumer model.
Ever-changing patient needs, demographics, and regulation mandates have forced organizations in the US healthcare industry to stay open to new technologies and tools that can help them do things better, faster, and more effectively for the patient.
And one such technology that has recently emerged and proved its value in the industry is Blockchain technology.
Unlike how healthcare information is stored today in an industry-player-specific centralised repository, in Blockchain, this information is decentralised, distributed and accessible by patients and/or other authorised stakeholders
Post 2009 after Bitcoins were introduced, Blockchain received tremendous response and its potential seemed immense.
Every vertical, be it banking, life sciences, retail, telecom etc. is doing something or the other to simplify and improve business processes, leveraging the unique characteristics offered by Blockchain.
With Blockchain, we are moving from an Internet of Information to an Internet of Value.
Each Blockchain is made up of blocks of information that are time stamped and placed in a chronological way within a chain. Each of these blocks contain specific sets of data. In the case of healthcare industry, this can be patient data, claims data, provider data, or wellness data.
This data, also known as assets, is transferred over the Blockchain network for the participants to consume. A Blockchain network can be a network of Payers, or network of Payers and Providers, or network of multiple diverse stakeholders, who will be contributors to the business process.
Unlike how healthcare information is stored today in an industry-player-specific centralised repository, in Blockchain, this information is decentralised, distributed and accessible by patients and/or other authorised stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem as suitable.
In other words, a single organisation will no longer own the data. And this will be made possible by Blockchain, a system built on architecture and spread out among different systems.
The healthcare industry faces many challenges, and Blockchain technology can tackle it efficiently.
A crucial one among them is on-time access to complete patient health information. Blockchain secures this data by digitising patient identity and related information and distributing it across a ledger. Additionally, this information can be updated by authorised personnel real-time across networks on which it is distributed.
Another challenge related to patient data is that it is fragmented. Patient data is centralised and stored only with the provider where the patient is being treated. So, if the same patient visits another healthcare provider, the new physician will not have access to information about the patient’s previous treatment.
Add to this patient generated data, which stems from their Internet of Things (IoT), namely wearable devices. This remains in another silo.
When information is stored in such silos, it becomes difficult for physicians to provide the right care to patients.
With Blockchain, we are moving from an Internet of Information to an Internet of Value
Blockchain provides decentralised replicated storage and sharing possibilities via networks. This means that Blockchain collects information generated by different stakeholders for a specific patient and makes it available to all those who are authorised to access it – this could include physicians at different healthcare facilities or providers.
Just as it is with patient healthcare data, timely access to accurate provider data is becoming a challenge.
This provider data is critical for medical centres, laboratories and radiology centres which have to meet the mandate of being accredited to specific standards.
It also helps individual providers to get educated on and experience credentialing. The credentialing and accreditation process carried out by independent organisations is the deciding factor for the individual physician, provider and facility centres for being able to practice, and participate in Payers’ network and getting paid by Payers for the services rendered.
So this accreditation data should always be accurate and available for immediate access to the Payer.
Blockchain has the potential to expedite and streamline this process and can help remove any roadblocks that may get in the way of getting timely access to accurate provider data.
The solution can be built on a Blockchain business network that brings together Payers, Providers and credentialing and accrediting organisations.
The Blockchain-based solution will have no entry barriers and higher adoption among industry stakeholders as it eliminates concerns related to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability act (HIPAA) and Protected Health Information (PHI) since the assets being exchanged are Provider data.
Credentialing and accreditation can help seamlessly transfer provider data management onus to the Provider. When a simplified process is available to maintain their information on the Blockchain, it incentivises providers to keep data accurate. This can address most concerns around Provider data management.
With Blockchain, the healthcare industry has a unique opportunity to unlock possibilities to decrease complexity in the ecosystem; to make it possible for parties that have previously not had trusted partnerships to collaborate easily; and to create a safe and tamper-proof distributed ledger.