May 14, 2019

The State of Blockchain in Healthcare in the UK & Sweden

by Michael Scott in Industry

An emerging thought leader. A digital health expert. A consultant. And a polyglot with five languages in her repertoire (English, French, Spanish, Swedish, Danish).

Feature Interview with Maria Marenco of HIMSS Europe

In addition to her work as a blockchain and digital health consultant and strategist, Marenco is heavily involved with the Sweden/Nordic Chapter of Government Blockchain Association, The Swedish Blockchain Association, and HIMSS Europe.

We asked Ms Marenco to share some of her observations around blockchain and its impact on healthcare advancements in the UK and Sweden.

Tell us a little about your journey in the health and wellness industry and how you were introduced to blockchain.

I come from an eclectic health and wellness background and have worked in various areas in the field.  Most of my professional career has been focused on the intersection between health and informatics. I am a health care informatician and mental health professional by training as well as a digital health entrepreneur.

Is there a major theme around your thinking?

Being a strong supporter of the importance of holistic care, a critical part of my work involves identifying the best possible ways to deliver good care to our citizens, particularly through the use of assistive technologies. This is how I was introduced to distributed ledger technologies and Blockchain which are now an important part of my  work in educating peers, as well as government and policy makers, of the potential and challenges of the technology and its use in Healthcare. My main focus of late is on blockchain ethics and policy in Healthcare.

Can you share with us a few of the new developments taking place in the U.K. in terms of the intersection between blockchain and healthcare?

London has been one of the top ten Blockchain cities in the world. There are a number of companies currently doing great work here on areas such as counterfeit drug mitigations, facilitation of data exchange for medical records, and genomic research. We are also seeing activity here in the U.K. on a governmental level.

Give us an example?

Yes.  One that’s worth mentioning is the APPG (All Parliamentary Group on Blockchain) that brings the public, private industry and policymakers together. It opens up the floor for collaborative work and education exchange. I hope we will see more initiatives like this taking place in other countries, facilitating the adoption of the technology and fostering innovation that can serve citizens.

Describe the sort of healthcare-related discussions occurring through your involvement with the Sweden/Nordic Government Blockchain Association, HIMSS, and the Swedish Blockchain Association?

Many of these discussions are ongoing in areas involving ethics, policy, security, interoperability, education, AI and Blockchain hybrids, government, digital identity, social impacts, and blockchain research, among others. The list is long!

What are you particularly excited these days in terms of your own work?

I am particularly enthusiastic about the HIMSS Blockchain in Healthcare Task Force, Blockchain Policy, and Ethics Tiger Team (PETT). It is an ad hoc group that formed off of our Task Force to address the need for policy guidance around the technology. The team is reviewing ethical considerations for the use of blockchain in our industry to inform guidance for policymakers, regulators, and implementers exploring the appropriate application of blockchain technology in healthcare.

And the team’s ultimate aim?

Simply to produce educational resources that can promote best practices and guidance around its adoption and implementation in the healthcare field.

How do you see blockchain ultimately contributing to advancements in the field of health informatics? And Mental health?

I think that utilizing blockchain in the area of Mental Health can be helpful when mindfully introduced and implemented. Mental Health is one of the things that all of us can relate to in many ways, yet very little is being done in this area in relation to the global burden and effects of mental health. Privacy concerns and worries of unwanted access to medical records and data is always present in the healthcare industry and are particularly accentuated in relation to mental health records due to the increased social stigmas associated with mental wellness and treatments.

How do you see blockchain contributing to a solution?

Through the use of Distributed Ledger Technology, we could increase privacy, security, and trust of the evolving digital environment, empowering citizens and mental health professionals in proactively monitoring treatments, regardless of the geographical location of the patients or the health care provider. Blockchain not only helps with the uniformity and accessibility of data between primary and secondary health providers and social services but also helps to incentivize healthier behaviors through tokens and cryptocurrencies?

Finally, what 2-3 trends do you believe will emerge over the next 12-18 months in the Blockchain of Healthcare space?

That’s a bit difficult to answer. But I do think we’ll continue to see Smart Contracts, Dapps and Supply Chain Management become more common in the healthcare space.

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