We’re living in a data-rich world!
Throughout the course of our lives we will consume healthcare. These visits can span from something as routine as a well child visit for your toddler to the complex case of an elderly patient who is experiencing a number of conditions such as Alzheimers, end-stage renal disease and COPD, placing him or her in a long term care facility because the complexity of care is more than a family can handle.
Having access to and gathering our healthcare data into one place so that we can have complete insight to our personal health and even take ownership of it has up until now been nearly impossible. While many electronic health record softwares make available a patient portal, those portals show you what they deem relevant and necessary. The data is controlled on the healthcare side and you, the originator and ultimate consumer of that data are not the owner of it. To further complicate matters if you see a specialist, your dentist or any other type of health care provider, your data will be stored in their EHR creating a disconnected web of places that store bits of data about you and your state of health.
There is comprehensive data out there on each of us that tells a compelling story about our health, the care we’ve received and even predictions about our future state of health.
What that data can be used for has potent power. There are systems today that provide predictive analytic insights as to the current state of our health and what might be done to intervene to treat and guide us into better health. We are on the cusp of personalized medicine because the data is rich enough to be able to tailor therapies specific to each individual. Data can even be gathered and used to help address social disparities that contribute to stress and thus poorer health conditions and so much more.
So with all this data out there on each of us, why is getting our own data so hard? I believe the answer is relatively simple. Over time as healthcare moved from simple paper charts in a doctor’s office, to electronic health record systems which were designed to accommodate the urgent business needs of the healthcare system such as billing. While doctors ideally wanted to treat their patients and keep them healthy, the system was designed in a treat patients symptomatically and bill accordingly. It wasn’t until the introduction of value-based care that doctors and health care providers are paid to keep their patients healthy. Value-based care has moved the healthcare eco system from being reactive to proactive and that in turn requires patients to be engaged in their own healthcare outcomes. The infrastructure to support data sharing simply hasn’t existed and implementing it after the fact has been difficult at best. The path to interoperability and data sharing is littered with expensive, failed attempts or silo’d successes.
Welcome to the era of Blockchain
While I could dedicate this entire blog or series of blogs to what is blockchain, that’s not what this one is about. What I do want to share are the basics of how I see blockchain tokenizing healthcare data.
The primary benefit of blockchain is it’s ability to build and maintain an immutable ledger of information from multiple sources. “what makes blockchain technology so rife with possibility is the obstacle it dissolves. This about it this way: the wheel removed the limitations of manual labor. The steam engine overcame the shortcomings of manual labor entirely. The internet dissolved issues of distance and access to knowledge. The blockchain? It dissolves the issue of trust (or lack thereof)” Wyatt Fossett.
Prior to blockchain there didn’t exist an infrastructure that was decentralized, protected, immutable and portable with the end goal of placing control of the data into the hands of the individual who owns it. Not only does it deliver on each of these complex problems, but in turn it allows for the data to be mined by those who wish to use it, with the permission of the individual who owns it who in turn is reimbursed by the requestor, thus turning data into an valuable asset that can be monetized. This tokenization of healthcare has the potential to turn healthcare as we know it inside out and create new and more precise ways of delivering care, designing personalized healthcare benefits, personalized drug therapies, services and goods and so on. We can’t even imagine how healthcare will look five years from now when individuals are deeply engaged in their personal health outcomes and driving smarter, more effective solutions that in turn are more cost effective. It’s these goods and services that individuals will be able to pay for out of their tokens that are earned as a result of sharing their data.
The tokenization of Healthcare Data
I imagine a world something like this: It’s that time of year where I renew my healthplan. I share all of relevant my personal data that reflects not only my healthcare services and outcomes, but also my health and wellbeing activities and the outcomes associated with healthy (or not) behaviors. This could include my exercise habits, eating patterns, biometrics, etc. The healthplan receives this information and calculates a set of personalized benefits that are tailored for me. I am paid for the use of that data, which in turns helps subsidize the cost of my plan.
Over the course of the year, various different research, pharmaceutical and healthcare entities request various components of my healthcare data. I share according to my personal appetite for data sharing and earn income for each instance of sharing. The tokens accumulated can be used for goods and services or simply exchange them for a currency of choice. My healthcare data has become an asset that allows me to earn a passive income that over time pays for healthcare goods and services, thus reducing the overall cost to me and the system.
I know that even now as I sit and think about it, there are changes that will come as a result of tokenizing healthcare data that I can’t even imagine. Think of all the inherent costs that are associated with proving trust between systems that must share data. Think about the cost of insuring systems against data theft. Think about the costs associated with trying to get centralized systems to share with one another yet never quite delivering on the promise of interoperability.
Blockchain has proven itself as an immutable ledger that can protect data. That test has been going for well over ten years now via cryptocurrency. It’s time to take that underlying technology and apply to it pressing problems within other industries and unleash the power of data as its own asset class.