Healthcare, Interoperability and Blockchain- A Story In The Making

Many organizations across industries are nowadays trying to get a taste of blockchain technology and have started looking at it as a solution to complex data sharing problems. Transparency and security are highlighted as the prime issues, every time the discussion comes up. Healthcare industry also faces the same issue and this problem is widely recognized by the government, the providers and the healthcare IT organizations.

According to most recent KLAS report, 86% providers have not achieved deep interoperability which is quite a high number. Most providers implement interoperability protocols within their ecosystem only, isolating the other providers and denying them the access to the patient data. Due to the technology and governance issue, healthcare interoperability has become difficult to implement.

Blockchain may be able to solve these issues but the research behind this is still at nascent stages. It is speculated by industry leaders that it may not act as a complete solution but can be used with enterprise healthcare systems in foreseeable future. Due to the sensitivity and privacy issues, all of the healthcare data can’t be on the blockchain. Hence, much of the data will still sit in the healthcare enterprise systems where it sits today.

To solve the interoperability issue, minimal but sufficient information can be placed on blockchain to reduce the concerns of privacy, security and compliance. Another reason for doing so is because the storage space is limited on blockchain and hence only the small data or metadata is preferred to be uploaded on chain. The rest of large size data like the pdf or scanned reports will reside off chain.  Inclusion of pointers in the on chain metadata and use of hashcodes can help to access this off chain data. Pointers in the on chain metadata will point to the source system containing the off chain data and will help to verify the integrity of this data.

Blockchains are flexible to use and hence it is for sure that the researchers are looking at blockchain as a solution to manage and organize the behemoth of healthcare data. Even other sub-industry players like medical devices supply chain, insurance agencies can gain advantage by implementation of blockchain in healthcare. According to a recent Deloitte report, technology is a hot topic in many industries but healthcare is planning the most aggressive technology deployments. Around 35% of health and life sciences company executives said that their company is planning to deploy latest technologies within a year. Only time will tell if blockchain will be a safe, secured and complete solution for data interoperability in healthcare but as of now, it seems that it will be.

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