The long-term promise of blockchain: 3 key insights

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Brad Pedrow, director of health and life sciences practice compliance risk Grant Thornton, based in Chicago, discusses the health care areas in which blockchain has contributed to progress, from clinical trial data management and EMRs to the supply chain and revenue management.

The answers have been slightly modified for clarity and length.

Question: where is now the blockchain in the health sector and how will it develop in 2019?

Brad Pedrow: The use of Blockchain in the healthcare sector has moved to the "fast follower" phase. We see cases of developing use in data management of clinical trials, EMRs, performance-based contracts, supply chain monitoring and revenue management, to name just a few. One of the benefits of these early implementations is the recognition that consensus among stakeholders across the healthcare spectrum is necessary for success. As a result, in 2019, as this recognition grows, we expect steady progress and wider application of blockchain applications in the health sector.

In particular, we expect the drug traceability blockchain to move from the pilot and restricted application to broader national solutions in response to the requirements to comply with the drug supply chain security law. The DSCSA was designed to focus on efficiency, compliance and the prevention of counterfeiting; the intrinsic characteristics of many blockchain architectures that allow you to focus exactly the same things.

Given the increased collaboration between health care participants, the increased data traceability promised by blockchain and DSCSA compliance mandates, we anticipate that 2019 will bring substantial developments that take advantage of blockchain technologies in healthcare sector. In turn, we believe that the efficiency and integrity of these developments will increase both quality and efficiency in the provision of care, thus reducing the total cost of care over time.

Q: What do you think will be the most significant blockchain applications in the healthcare sector over the next five years?

BP: Blockchain technology can transform healthcare companies by allowing the evolution of new business models and new ecosystems. The long-term promise of blockchain is its ability to drive standardization across the healthcare landscape and to increase the safe and secure accessibility of health data for previously unimaginable analyzes. Within five years, we will probably see pilot solutions focused on patient record safety, enabling patients to "better" own their data, traceability of the supply chain through DSCSA, and fund use cases related to pre-authorization of services. We also anticipate that blockchain solutions will facilitate more personalized medicine and result-based decisions in a way that better connects suppliers, suppliers and the supply ecosystem in a more interconnected platform.

Q: What do the blockbenches of blockchain hospitals and healthcare systems know today?

BP: Leaders will have to take into account the ancient pressures they have always considered – towards innovation in health care – in particular, if their regulatory agencies respond in a timely fashion to support innovation, but with sufficient attention to protect the safety and efficacy of health care. This tension is often cited as the cause of delays in technological advances in the health sector compared to other industries. To address this tension properly, health leaders will need to involve regulatory agencies early and often in the development of blockchain use cases.

For reasons related to this tension, health care providers may lag behind the subjects in the life sciences and taxpayers sectors. That said, leaders in all health care sectors need to be aware of this tension and the need to involve legislators. Taking this tension into account, the more traditional considerations of first-mover advantage, the return on investment, the interoperability of data and the management of changes can be contemplated in order to improve the health care of quality and maximize the impact of blockchain adoption.

To attend the future Becker question and answer session, contact Jackie Drees at [email protected]

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