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4 ways blockchain is the new business collaboration tool

Lucas Mearian | May 24, 2017
Smart contracts, healthcare data-sharing and microgrids are all taking advantage of the technology.


Sharing patient data, ensuring doctors get paid

While electronic healthcare records (EHRs) have helped in the centralization of patient data to some extent, sharing that sensitive information with various healthcare providers, such as medical specialists, can be difficult at best because EHR platforms are not standardized across organizations.

Healthcare organizations could use the cryptographically secure, decentralized blockchain ledger to pre-authorize the sharing of a patient's information.

Last year, the MIT Media Lab and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center tested a proof-of-concept that shared information about patient medications through a blockchain ledger called MedRec. MedRec was based on the Ethereum blockchain platform for smart contracts.

In their analysis paper, titled "A Case Study for Blockchain in Healthcare," the MIT and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center researchers found blockchain "could contribute to secure, interoperable EHR systems."

In addition, healthcare IT vendors and the U.S. government are exploring blockchain's potential. Earlier this year, IBM's Watson Health artificial intelligence unit  signed a two-year joint-development agreement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to explore using blockchain technology to securely share patient data for medical research and other purposes.

IBM Watson Health and the FDA plan to explore the exchange of patient-level data from several sources, including electronic medical records (EMRs), clinical trials, genomic data and health data from mobile devices, wearables and the "Internet of Things." The initial focus will be on oncology-related information.

Healthcare is also hampered with an inefficient payment system, where insurance companies fight with providers.

"Insurance companies have already given prior approval based on medical necessity or preauthorization and I've got to fight collect it..., really?" said Gene Thomas, CIO of Memorial Hospital, a 445-bed facility in Gulfport, Miss. "Depending on who you talk to, 17 cents, 21 cents... of every healthcare dollar is spent on collections. Are you kidding me?"

Underpinning a shared ledger where all parties involved in a healthcare insurance contract -- patient, provider and payer -- all see the same information at the same time, blockchain has the potential of smoothing out the "arduous, high cost, high friction process.

"Everyone's posting to the same thing, it's all transparent. I've got high hopes that if there's any place blockhchain could actually have an impact in healthcare, it's on [the] revenue cycle side," Thomas said.

In light of that need, Deloitte's report found that healthcare and life sciences have the most aggressive deployment plans for blockchain of any industry, with 35% of survey respondents indicating their organization plans to deploy blockchain within the next year.


Selling energy through microgrids

Because of blockchain, residents of the Park Slope area of Brooklyn are now able to sell power generated from rooftop solar panels via a microgrid enabled by a blockchain ledger that records every transaction made with a local utility.


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