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Will Blockchain solve healthcare’s interoperability challenges?

February 7, 2017

Matthew Vagnoni, guest blogger and product director at Infor, takes a look at Blockchain—a topic that’s recently been receiving a lot of attention in the healthcare community.

Whether it’s a patient allowing consent for clinicians to see their health information for treatment or supporting research, data sharing is at the heart of everything happening in healthcare these days. A patient may technically own his or her data, but today it resides where the patient received treatment. Cloverleaf Health Information Exchange (HIE) and other interoperability technology today exists to enable data to flow. However, future generation exchanges will face new and emerging use cases as well as ever-changing security challenges.

Patient consent management is important for most cross-entity interoperability products, like HIE. In the Contract Research Organization (CRO)/Clinical Trial Market, it is estimated that each hospital loses around 5% of their patients to End of Life (discontinued therapy or inappropriate therapy) and leakage to specialists like a cancer center. Not only are many patients missing out on alternative treatments (such as clinical trials or genetically specialized therapies) that could impact their long-term survival, but hospitals are affected as well, with estimates indicating a fiscal loss to each facility of around $60,000 per patient. There are other opportunities like organizations that employ Deep Learning and Cognitive Computing—both of which need data and may be willing to compensate patients for their data if it was easier to obtain consent and access. Not only would the patient receive compensation to possibly offset out-of-pocket treatment costs, but they could potentially benefit from overall better treatment plans. So how can organizations implement a patient consent management process?

Blockchain is one way that organizations can gain consent to data and may help solve some of the healthcare industry’s interoperability challenges. An article from Becker’s Hospital Review describes a blockchain as a database structure or permanent record of online transactions or exchanges that enables the creation of a digital transaction ledger that is shared across a distributed network. This transaction ledger consists of a growing list of records or transactions called blocks. Each block is linked to its previous block, ensuring that every block is valid. The link creates a chain of blocks or a blockchain. The nature of the blockchain structure ensures that there is no single point of failure and makes the blockchain secure, immutable (unable to be changed), and auditable. This technology could become popular in the healthcare industry as a means to interoperate since all users of a network can access that network and pieces of information are verified by showing the history of transactions. Overall, it allows for patients and care providers to move data in real-time, without the need of verification because each user is connecting to the same network and shared information.

Blockchain can be used to drive consent management and liberate data securely to allow for new innovation in the care and outcomes of patients. Many patients are open to sharing their data through websites such as Patients Like Me, but there aren’t good mechanisms to ensure privacy, identity, and anonymity to the average patient who might not want to expose all of their medical history to anyone on the internet. With blockchain, patients gain secure clinical data flow.

We’re interested in blockchain as we explore new product offerings, and believe that identity management will play an important role in any new applications that Infor develops. To learn more about Infor’s interoperability and data sharing systems, visit the Infor Cloverleaf website.
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