WASHINGTON – In recent decades, politicians and entrepreneurs have tried and failed to solve the problem of health interoperability, leaving patients increasingly frustrated by the lack of control over personal medical records.
Now, industry leaders hope that blockchain technology could be the answer. Although blockchain is typically associated with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, it is now explored as a way to create shared networks of health data.
According to experts gathered at the Blockchain Healthcare Summit last week here, blockchain is a much more effective way to store, share and protect sensitive data across heterogeneous groups.
"If you had to do something from scratch, you would do it on blockchain," said Ben Jessel of Kadena, a recent spin-off of JP Morgan Chase. Blockchain has a real chance to untangle the chaos of electronic medical records because, for the first time, it is encouraging all major healthcare professionals to get together, Jessel said.
Countries such as Estonia and Australia are already using blockchain to manage health data and broker transactions between patients, healthcare providers and federal insurance programs.
According to some "blockchain evangelists", many of whom spoke at last week's conference, the blockchain will soon introduce a utopian future in which each patient has control of his entire medical record, easily accessible through a similar interface. to an & # 39; app.
In this view, patients are the touchstone of their medical records, the data of the licenses to payers and providers only if necessary.
But according to Jim Nasr of Synchrogenix of Certara, "at the moment, it is only largely science fiction – at least here in the United States"
"The case of everyone's favorite use is the medicine ropes on blockchain, "said John Bass, founder and CEO of Hashed Health. "I also adore this case of use, but I think it will take a while to get there."
Despite the $ 5.6 billion projected healthcare market by 2025, most blockchain applications have so far focused on hanging fruit, such as supply chain logistics or doctor credentials.
This is because protected health information – including names and identifying information defined by HIPAA – is considered "toxic" data, Bass says.
Despite regulatory and regulatory barriers surrounding protected health information, there are about half a dozen companies trying to create electronic health and personal health records based on blockchain, says Heather Flannery, co-founder of Blockchain in Healthcare Global.
Those include startups like MintHealth and Medicalchain, both of which have launched blockchain applications to manage electronic health records.
"Thei Work is important and valuable, but it is stuck," Flannery said, noting that some technology companies are skipping the US healthcare market altogether and are implementing their blockchain solutions in developing countries.
Blockchain in Healthcare Global is an & # 39; organization The goal is to reduce deep rooted governance and regulatory barriers that are stifling blockchain innovation.
Healthcare professionals in the United States have "zero risk tolerance" when it comes to managing electronic health records, Flannery said.
"The only way is going to happen – and this is my opinion – is whether our government is in partnership with suppliers and [becomes] part of the initiative directly," Flannery said. In this way, "suppliers do not have to worry about the reaction the government could have about the potentially hundreds of micro-policy decisions that need to be taken to advance something like that."
Despite the regulatory difficulties of dealing with patient data, the ability of the blockchain to handle both tamper and anonymous data makes it the best solution to solve health interoperability problems, according to Shada Alsalamah, a guest scholar of the MIT Media Lab.
"Several technologies have been proven over the years, but there are many security issues and many privacy issues," he said. If implemented correctly, blockchain can "help provide patients with a better quality of life by connecting their electronic health records to allow seamless sharing of medical records between healthcare professionals."
This is the fourth of a [MedPage today series on the uses of blockchain technology in health care. Previous versions included:
Blockchain: The future for the integrity of research data
Blockchain holds the promise of counterfeiting drug counterfeiters  Control doctor credentials: Tech to the Rescue?
2018-08-22T15: 00: 00-0400