Blockchain… the Cure?

By now if you haven’t heard of blockchain, you’re probably living under a rock. There is no doubt that the technology has emerged as a hot topic in recent months, and this is especially true for most businesses. Scores of companies are now racing to integrate the technology of blockchain into their systems and capitalize on the growing trend. To a certain extent, the word ‘blockchain’ has even emerged as a marketing buzzword.

While the efficiency of blockchain is still decently enigmatic in several industries, it has shown promising value in the field of healthcare. This idea was reaffirmed for me about a month ago when Wolverine Crypto Traders was approached by a U of M doctor specializing in Anesthesiology, interested in exploring the use of blockchain in the University’s hospital system. He presented an issue that is faced by all health systems around the world: the difficulty in accessing and transferring patient data. To put this issue into perspective, imagine someone is on vacation and experiences an unfortunate health emergency requiring them to go to the nearest hospital. Upon arrival, the doctors will try to gain critical life or death information from the patient’s primary hospital about their past care. However, with the current flow of patient records in the healthcare industry, the hospital is overly dependent on the previous care provider’s records and there is no way of ensuring integrity of that data.

Obviously not every patient scenario plays out like the one I just described, but it is important to understand the current flow of patient data is almost counter productive. Doctors, being as smart as they are, have already begun to implement solutions into the industry.

One of the most exciting solutions in the space is called Medrec. Developed by a team of researchers from the MIT Media Lab and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Medrec decentralizes the access of patient data from institutions and providers and recenters it around the patient. By linking patient data to a blockchain in this manner, health institutions will be able to check Medrec and be guaranteed they are obtaining accurate and relevant information from the patient’s care history.

This solution will be replicated by many competitors, such as Patientory and Simply Vital Health, trying to tap into the healthcare and blockchain synergy.

Medrec is different in that it is still being developed at a nonprofit university. For a field as sensitive as healthcare, the group that succeeds in creating the primary healthcare blockchain must be able to motivate institutions to trust the solution and recognize its value. Aside from the fact that Medrec will be associated with MIT, the solution incentivizes medical stakeholders to serve as “miners” of the network, granting them access to a vast collection of anonymous patient data. This will be extremely beneficial to researchers who can use this data to test their hypotheses and prove various studies.

One of the concerns with Medrec, and most other blockchain solutions is the ease of use of the technology. As mentioned, Medrec puts responsibility onto the patient to manage their records. Since healthcare is a field that is applicable to everyone, the team must ask themselves if they have crafted a solution simple enough for anyone to understand and use. A healthcare institution will have little utility for using Medrec if they are not confident the patient has been managing their data. This is a hurdle that Medrec will have to diligently address as they further develop their platform. However, in my opinion Medrec is the closest to creating a usable and trusted system for accurately sharing patient health records since the tool is under development at a university and has an efficient mining system.

As I look to serve in the healthcare field after graduation, I am excited by the opportunities that will arise from the development of blockchain. The technology has the potential to improve drug administration and even internal hospital operations. The key is for users of the tool to fully comprehend its use and value within the realm of healthcare, and that will only come with time.

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In 2018, I will be attending the North American Bitcoin Conference with 12 others from the Wolverine Crypto Traders team. The conference dates are January 18th and 19th at an exciting venue in Miami, Florida.

I am looking forward to networking with others interested in the healthcare-blockchain synergy and learn more about upcoming ICO’s within the cryptoasset space. One of the speakers I am most excited to hear from at this year’s conference is Charlie Shrem, an extremely early entrepreneur in the bitcoin industry who founded BitInstant. Beyond Charlie, attendees will hear from the likes of Matt Spoke, Brock Pierce, and several others.

For those interested in attending, here is a link to the conference website: https://btcmiami.com/tickets/

Ticket prices will increase to $1000 on January 1st, 2018 so act fast!