Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Blockchain at the heart: Plugging the gap in health information exchange



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Glen Ogden, UAE-based General Manager at Guardtime Health, tells us about the company’s groundbreaking work in making patient records safe and accessible

blockchain

We’re on the verge of a new era in healthcare. More than ever before, we’re collecting vast amounts of healthcare data on people, old and young, healthy and unhealthy, and from all corners of the earth. This data, love it or hate it, is transforming medicine and how we tackle health problems around the world. It seems as though we’re in a race, with big data in the lead and everything else trying to keep up with it. In order to record and store all of this data, our computing systems have had to try and keep pace.

The perennial problem

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are a perfect example of where data collection and data storage meet at a crossroad. EHRs collect data from a patient’s medical appointment and store the data in an electronic medical record system. However, the challenge lies in the interoperability of these systems – data from Hospital A can’t be shared with Hospital B as the systems used are different. This means that it’s rare to have a full picture of one’s health as part of an EHR – in fact, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in the US states that nearly one-third of individuals who went to a doctor in the past 12 months reported experiencing a gap in information exchange, resulting in the need to re-do tests, wait longer for results, and having to bring their test results along with them to another appointment, as examples.

There’s also the inherent problem of the EHR’s security, integrity and attestation – data that has been tampered with can lead to medical errors or inappropriate care provision. Ensuring that the data in the EHR is secure and reliable is paramount to ensuring the safety of patients. The world is crying out for a solution to these challenges, to save healthcare systems valuable time, money and resources.

A significant breakthrough

That’s why at Guardtime, we were proud to launch the world’s first blockchain-supported Personal Care Record platform last month in the UK, alongside our partners Instant Access Medical and Healthcare GatewayMyPCR is a mobile app and platform that puts a patient’s health records in the palm of their hands, helping to overcome the challenges of EHRs by putting all health information in one place. Furthermore, the platform interfaces with all three major UK NHS GP systems enabling National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) based personal care pathways to be rolled out to the 30 million NHS patients enabled for access.

Glen Ogden

As the industry scrambles to both improve quality and lower costs, non-adherence to agreed treatment plans is a topic for which everyone in the healthcare ecosystem needs a solution. Diabetes, for example, costs the NHS approximately £10bn annually, and nearly 80 per cent of these costs are spent on complications, which may be potentially preventable. Moreover, in the US, the total direct national cost of non-adherence for adults diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, or dyslipidemia is $105.8bn. MyPCR helps to support patients with treatment plan adherence through the use of reminders direct to a patient’s phone. These reminders could help reduce the complications that arise from missing medication doses or doctor’s appointments, helping to lower the £8bn spent on complications from diabetes annually in the UK.

The use of blockchain technology to store the information captured in MyPCR helps overcome the problem of data security and integrity of EHRs of the past. It provides immutable proof of health data provenance and integrity, automated verification of medication adherence, and is GDPR compliant.

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Further goals

But we’re not stopping there, because we know that blockchain can help overcome some of the world’s greatest healthcare challenges. With machine learning and artificial intelligence helping us to analyse data faster than ever before, we need to ensure that the data is shareable amongst key players, whilst adhering to data consent rules and maintaining data security.

The sharing of patient data with consent can help accelerate the research and development efforts of pharmaceutical companies.

Blockchain can help validate and maintain adherence to trial protocols, and patients can also self-enrol in clinical trials with the system automatically assessing and verifying their eligibility to participate on an ongoing basis.

Through the mechanics of the blockchain, the security and integrity of the data is maintained. This process means that pharmaceutical companies could speed up patient recruitment and pool data from different trial sites around the country and the world, ultimately helping to get to regulatory filing more quickly. On the flip side, as all of this information is made available earlier in the process, trials that are perhaps not progressing as planned can be stopped and resources re-allocated.

At Guardtime, we know that change is coming in healthcare, but we also know it’s not going to happen overnight. The changes we’ll see at first will be small, but they will be incremental, eventually leading to a tipping point when more radical overhauls of the industry occur. It’s happening now, and it’s evolving at rapid fire pace. New data management systems are emerging; these allow vast data transactions to occur whilst enabling us to analyse and query them in an efficient way. The systems promise cost savings, faster clinical trial processes, and provision of deeper insights into the data, amongst other things.

About the author

With well over 100 years experience between us, we've been around the editorial and medical blocks a few times. But we're still as keen as any young pup to root out what's new and inspiring.

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