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Application of Blockchain in Health Care—Is There a Killer Application?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Shami Dugal
September 15, 2019

In continuing the journey on blockchain and healthcare, the question arises: Where does it make sense to get started on an application of this technology in business? What is the killer application?

Three thoughts come to mind: First, is ensuring integrity of information; that seems inherently part of blockchain and a natural expectation. The second one is managing consent especially by the client or patient. I suspect the second is much easier that the first, although they are related. The last one is intelligent devices and this is where there may be a lot of action because of the monetization that is available in developing products for a better lifestyle. The last one also incorporates IoT (Internet of Things) and possibly AI (Artificial Intelligence), both which emphasize intelligent devices.

Integrity of information and managing consents is a software play to make business processes more efficient and to add further automation and integrity. Consent management will involve trust in the data and over the process of obtaining, storing and sharing information between entities in a timely manner. The question is whether we will be able to make use of intelligent devices that will permit gaining, storing and distributing consent on a just-in-time basis for business processes to proceed unimpeded.

This illustration has been taken from an article in Electronic Design and is an example representing aspects of connectivity, IoT and consent between different entities.

Industry has learned that social media is able to promote consumer purchases even though there may not necessarily be a need for them. With listening devices and usable communication products, it is astonishing how advertisements are displayed on phones very soon after conversations, searches and visits to stores. Industry is using this information very intelligently and perhaps surreptitiously to promote interest and purchases by promising quick deliveries to homes and offices.

In the case of healthcare, the media is inundated with advertisements about normal and unusual illnesses, and medications galore that are available for them. In addition, we have been flooded with advertisements, products and social pressure to become healthier. The point is that there is not only a ready audience for healthcare products, but individuals are inclined to give up perfectly good products and purchase new ones as long as they have privacy (fingerprints, iris recognition), speed (5G), better cameras and intelligent, health monitoring applications available. 

I conclude that there is an opportunity for industry to create products which will press consumers to continue moving to the next, “New and improved,” things and create a demand where none may exist. However, when you consider the fabric of healthcare and its participants, it would not be difficult to create a compelling business model for a Cloud that can connect healthcare providers, practitioners, vendors and suppliers and consumers for personalized care services.

The concept of a, “Health selfie,” that allows a continual check on one’s physical and mental health using smart devices connected to healthcare professionals and providers should be saleable. The work to get there is significant in terms of establishing all aspects of global standards in healthcare.

Why is this needed? The cost of healthcare as a percentage of income is about 8% in the United States. This empirical information may not consider associated costs in terms of impact on work, family life and general well-being. Tourism over the past 50 years is up well over five times what it was. Corporations have offices and are doing work all over the world. Business travel is also increasing year over year in spite of the ability to connect by phones and meetings over the web.

No one can afford to travel without healthcare insurance. Where out of pocket costs are acceptable, payments are made by the insurance company versus a reimbursable model. The population is aging in the United States, but the same is not true in India, for example, where 50% or more of the country’s population is under 25 years of age and two-thirds is under 35. China and Japan are a little older in comparison.

The pressures on healthcare will increase to a point where the current models will not be able to sustain themselves. Better standards and governance is needed for healthcare throughout the world, which means cooperation over shared agreements, legislation, policies and promotion of practices, devices and models, which we have not seen so far. There appears be no apparent movement in this direction. It is still internal to each country and the fight in the United States on affordable healthcare goes on.

The point is that technology will outrun governance and there is money to be made in this industry but it will not be pre or well thought out and the result is continuing chaos. Killer applications in healthcare will emerge given a robust market for them, but they need political and industry support to arrive at a compatible direction.

Author: Over thirty years of policy, strategic planning and implementation of technology based solutions in public, not for profit and private sector organizations in many subject areas, the past twelve hears in healthcare (EMR systems). Enjoy tackling complex multi-dimensional issues, and turning around projects. [email protected]

Shami Dugal, Hon. B. Math, University of Waterloo, MPA (Policy) Drake University, παα


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