Is Blockchain the right prescription for managing health data?

June 4, 2018 By: Stephanie Allen

Managing health data is a constant challenge in healthcare. For example, What data is worth capturing and storing? What platform is capturing data? How is the data accessed and analyzed? What measures are in place to ensure that health data is kept private?

One of the main reasons that managing health data is complicated is that health data is scattered. Over the years, as we navigate our health, we see different providers, specialists, and organizations. Visits outside of our primary care generates new health data and is often not integrated with our full medical history. The same is true if we move or switch our primary care. An integrated and accessible full medical history would provide tremendous value. Healthcare providers that have access to a full medical history are better equipped with the data they need to make clinical decisions. Patients would not need to recite their entire medical history to each new provider. Fewer data errors would occur without the need for transferring and translating health data between providers.

An integrated, accessible platform to share health data sounds great. But, what about privacy? Yep, one of the main reasons this does not exist! Healthcare organizations are extremely careful with patient data, as they should be. Patient data is not shared with other providers or even family members without consent. As important as this security measure is – it creates a bottleneck. Lack of access to important health data when it is needed for the next step in a patient’s care can cause problems.

Leveraging blockchain technology is a promising solution. Patient’s data such as lab results, patient generated data from mobile apps, EHR data, medical images such as X-rays, medications and more can be divided into data blocks and stored on blockchain infrastructure. The value for both patients and providers is that all health records would be interconnected among health organizations. The security features already built into blockchain could be leveraged so that patients would have the ability to grant permission or share access to third parties to streamline the process of transferring health care records to multiple providers. Compelling, is anybody doing this now?

My favorite way to learn more about new technology is listening to experts speak about real world applications. I attended a great event, the San Diego Live Well Blockchain Forum on Friday, May 18th by the UC San Diego Office of Innovation and Commercialization to hear local blockchain company leaders and university researchers in a panel discussion talk about blockchain technology and its various applications. Speakers included Dawn Barry (LunaDNA), Arie Trouw (XYO Network), Steve McCloskey (Nanome), Tim Mackey (UCSD Global Health Policy), Tsung-Ting Kuo (UCSD Bioinformatics), Victoria Cajipe (UCSD OIC), Cecile Baird and Jens Albers from (BC4G, Blockchain for Good). I did learn a great deal about blockchain and would like to provide you all with more details. I’m currently completing Q&As with the speakers and will update this post when I’ve gathered more details…stay tuned!!