Blockchain technology in healthcare is in its early stages. Many startups are promoting their ideas. Many products are competing for attention. Should health organizations move now or wait? Which standards will last, and which are dead ends? The Healthcare Blockchain Summit will offer a chance to explore the many alternatives.
Everyone recognizes that existing approaches do a poor job of sharing personal health data. Security breaches cost healthcare organizations millions of dollars every year. Delays in authorization get in the way of treatment. Making information readily available while keeping it secure requires a new approach. Blockchain technology could provide the answers, automating the authorization process with peer-to-peer technology and cryptography.
On March 20 and 21, many industry representatives will gather in the FHI 360 Conference Center in Washington, DC to present and discuss blockchain approaches to health data. Anyone seriously involved in this area should consider attending.
Cooperation and standards
The blockchain future will require widely accepted standards. The aim is to let a patient move data freely from a primary care provider to a lab, a specialty clinic, or a hospital as needed. If they don’t all talk the same language, this won’t be possible. Each startup has its own approach, but they will need to find common ground. One consistent set of standards has to emerge, and everyone will have to adapt their work to it.
This still leaves room for many companies to provide parts of the solution. Cooperation and the development of standards will be a major theme of the conference.
Government regulations back up the need for interoperability. The Drug Supply Chain Security Act of 2013 requires the adoption by 2023 of an electronic, interoperable system to identify and trace the distribution of certain prescription drugs. Manufacturers, distributors, and dispensers will need to adopt standard methods of product identification, tracing, and verification. The blockchain approach may be the best way to meet its requirements.
The agenda will include speeches and panel discussions with representatives from startups, large companies, educational institutions, and government. Topics will include models for cooperation, business and economic issues, legal concerns, and patient control. Several speakers will look at the ways the financial industry is exploring blockchain. Bitcoin is only the best known of them. “Smart contracts” are important in finance, and they will be necessary to defining information access rights to health data.
Current methods of conveying consent to release information are clumsy. Smart contracts not only build that information into the blockchain but enforce it. Their use to establish trust relationships, even among organizations with no prior relationship, will be among the topics on the conference’s agenda.
Chairperson Jody Ranck’s scheduled opening remarks will stress the need for cooperation and standards. Other speakers will discuss the business models, the development of an ecosystem, and patient control. Sponsors include T-Systems, Peer Ledger, and Spiritus Partners.
The conference and beyond
The optional Post-Summit Workshop will cover issues of designing and implementing pilot projects. Starting at 2:00 PM following the close of the conference, it will address business, engineering and legal issues in creating a blockchain application.
The conference and the workshop will offer many chances to learn about the state of the art and make business contacts that will help in ongoing blockchain ventures. Meal breaks and a networking reception will let attendees catch all the events that interest them and still find time to talk with colleagues.
The FHI 360 Conference Center is in the downtown Washington area, near Dupont Circle. Group and student discounts are available.
Blockchain Healthcare Review is a Supporting Publication for the conference. Come talk with us while you’re there! Contact us if you’d like to learn more about what we’ll be up to.