Blockchain and Healthcare: Recent Developments
Blockchain technology stands to revolutionize any number of industries, and healthcare is no exception. Right now, we’re seeing several startups present innovative ideas about how blockchain can make healthcare better. Established tech giants like IBM are also investing in this space.
So, what is blockchain and what does it mean for healthcare?
In the simplest sense, blockchain is a secure, decentralized method of data storage. By using blockchain, two parties can make a transaction—or exchange data—instantaneously, without having to go through a middleman. A ledger automatically records the transaction and makes itself available to everyone who might access the data in the future. This makes it easy to spot suspicious activity.
There is no central server or authority that governs data on blockchain. Each piece of data exists independently—on a “block,” basically. This decentralization, in combination with the ledger, makes the data more secure. Accessing one block does not provide access to other blocks.
In sum, blockchain is useful for storing a high volume of sensitive data in a way that’s secure while still enabling authorized parties to access the data quickly. For healthcare, that’s a boon. It can be applied to all sorts of data transactions: electronic health records, provider data, payments, etc.
Let’s look at what’s going on with blockchain and healthcare.
Synaptic Health Alliance Pilots Using Blockchain for Provider Directories
Several major health insurers have teamed up to form the Synaptic Health Alliance, including Humana, UnitedHealthcare, and Aetna. Several major diagnostic companies such as Quest Alliance have also joined. Their goal: to utilize blockchain for provider directories.
Recently, the Synaptic Health Alliance’s pilot has enjoyed success. Although a provider directory may seem relatively straightforward, it can cause a lot of administrative headaches. Updating provider and credentialing information, for example, can be quite time-consuming. An error or duplicate entry can cause a ripple effect of problems.
Blockchain enables payers and diagnostic service providers with access to an up-to-date, accurate provider directory. Given the success of initial pilots, the Synaptic Health Alliance hopes that this use of blockchain can eventually be rolled out nationally.
Duality Applies Blockchain to Telemedicine and Healthcare Records
Telemedicine is an emerging field that has the potential to improve patients’ access to healthcare on a large scale. However, telemedicine does have problems with privacy and security. When doctors and patients communicate virtually, how can patient records be secured?
The answer may lie in the blockchain. San Antonio-based startup Duality is bringing the blockchain to telemedicine with its solution BDAP, or Blockchain Directory Access Protocol. BDAP potentially has applications for both telemedicine and healthcare records more generally.
Currently, Duality is working on three separate applications: pShare for sharing medical records, pConsult for telemedicine, and NoID for enabling access to Electronic Health Records (EHRs). The technology will enable interoperability by being HIPPA-compliant.
NSF Awards Grant to Startup SimplyVital Health Inc.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is awarding a $225,000 grant to New England-based startup SimplyVital Health Inc. SimplyVital has developed a HIPPA-compliant Blockchain protocol, Nexus.
The company will use the grant money to research how Nexus might integrate with the Graphene protocol to enable better access to healthcare records.
Cumberland Joins MediLedger Project
The healthcare consulting and services provider Cumberland has joined the MediLedger project. The MediLedger project is a Chronicled initiative. It is utilizing blockchain technology to improve the pharmaceutical supply chain.
MediLedger validates the production of drugs so that distributors can be certain they are providing drugs that have gone through the proper manufacturing process. It complies with the Drug Supply Chain Security Act. Many major pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, Gilead, and Genentech, have already partnered with MediLedger.
BurstIQ Raises $5.5 Million in Series A Funding
BurstIQ recently completed a $5.5 million Series A funding round, led by the venture capital firm Elsewhere Partners. The Denver-based startup offers HIPPA-compliant blockchain solutions for the healthcare industry and is widely considered to be a leader in the space. It was founded in 2015.
The BurstIQ platform provides clinicians with secure access to healthcare records. The company has partnered with major provider organizations such as Empiric Health and Colorado Regional Health Information Organization. The company has been financially solvent since 2016, and this is its first major funding round. BurstIQ hopes that the funding will enable the company to accelerate its growth.
ASM Introduces Checksome and Brings Blockchain to Credentialing
Applied Statistics & Management (ASM) has introduced Checksome, a blockchain platform to optimize the credentialing process. Checksome currently includes more than two million primary source verifications. The platform has the potential to process credentials much more quickly while also providing easy access to updated credentialing information. By using the platform, organizations can circumvent the need to independently verify credentials.
As the news makes clear, blockchain is entering many different aspects of healthcare services. Although most of these initiatives are still new, they are very promising.