Of all the innovations at the forefront that are currently breaking out in the healthcare industry, there is one that takes the last and greatest crown: Blockchain.
For all its hype, and there is still plenty of it, the potential of the blockchain to affect any number of health problems that depend on managing and exchanging secure data is very real. Even though Gartner says it's too overwhelmed at the moment, technology is approaching a "breaking point".
Technology companies – a handful of blue-chip giants and dozens of Silicon Valley startups – are working diligently to turn the promise of the cryptographic register into real-world technology in health care and non-health care. only.
While operational and financial use cases such as the supply chain and the revenue cycle often receive the greatest attention, the potential for blockchain for other major clinical challenges, such as patient safety and population health, are also piloted by some large technology companies with the support of federal agencies.
As we noted in 2017, IBM Watson has partnered with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as an extension of other blockchain-based public health jobs, Big Blue is doing with the US Food and Drug Administration to explore new applications for blockchain in the healthcare sector.
Since then, CDC has conducted several pilot projects to probe the blockade
The potential of distributed ledger technology for managing patient data over time and assistance settings, especially when implemented with emerging intelligence capabilities It is enormous, said IBM Chief Science Officer Shahram Ebadollahi at the Fast Company Innovation Festival in October 2017.
"Blockchain is very useful when there are so many actors in the system," he said. "It allows the health data ecosystem to have greater fluidity and artificial intelligence allows us to get information from the data." Everyone talks about big data in the health sector, but I think the most important thing is long data. "
Three different strategies to trigger an epidemic
This week, Fast Company reported on IBM's work with CDC, in particular a promising project to use these longitudinal data to help stem the enlargement of Opioid epidemic.
Working with the National Center for Health Statistics at CDC, IBM has made great strides in developing a blockchain-enabled health surveillance system that makes it easier for public health agencies to inspect hospitals and physicians on their patients and on prescription practices. The work included surveys to collect data on patients seeking assistance and how doctors prescribe antibiotics and opioids, according to Fast Company.
IBM is not the only company convinced of the ability of the blockchain to fight with opioid addiction. In the spring, for example, Intel took a new approach to the fight against drug abuse, Bloomberg reported on Intel's work.
Digital currencies have been accused of worsening the opioid crisis because they make it easier to buy and sell drugs anonymously.  In a pilot project with pharmaceutical industry giants (including McKesson and Johnson & Johnson), Intel is developing ways to distribute blockchain as a way to better track how the pills are distributed from point to point.
This could "significantly reduce the opiate outbreak," David Houlding, director of privacy and health security at Intel, told Bloomberg. "I would not say this will eliminate the opiate problem, but this will help."
While a supply chain approach to mitigate the opioid epidemic seems logical in its broad traits, another blockchain player, Hashed Health, has offered his own perspective on the challenge and a & # 39; other potential strategy.
"Stakeholders who suggest Blockchain as a unique opioid epidemic solution often attribute responsibility for abuse to the prescriber or pharmacist at the time of fulfillment. "Hashed Health explained on his website. "In this model, the responsible parties are considered as those who emit opiates, although pragmatic from the point of view of supply chain management, a more solid understanding of the epidemic suggests that the guilt for addiction involves more of the dynamics of the supply chain. "
Beyond simply trying to track the distribution, use and misuse of opioids, blockchain could help enhance an even more fundamental approach to patient safety, the company said, playing a role key in the research and development of opioid alternatives.
the basis for a "decentralized database of test results with free access to these data", added Hashed Health, blockchain "prevents the possibility of duplicate efforts at the global level and improved coordination between projects."