Blockchain's effect on patient to provider data exchange: 3 Qs with CitiusTech chief technology officer

Jackie Drees - Print  | 

Vinil Menon, chief technology officer at health IT specialist provider CitiusTech in Princeton, N.J., shares his predictions for healthcare's use of blockchain in 2019 and what hospital and health system IT leaders need to know.

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: Where is blockchain in healthcare now and how will it develop in 2019?

Vinil Menon: Blockchain has real implications for healthcare data access and sharing, and the healthcare industry is likely to be the next big adopter of this technology. However, adoption up until now has been largely limited to pilots. While healthcare organizations continue to grapple with complex challenges around data management, analytics and regulatory compliance, it may be a while before their investments in blockchain technology become significantly large.

Over the course of the year, blockchain will make considerable progress around interoperability use cases. We are likely to see blockchain used to enable access to diverse and distributed healthcare information across a diverse mix of actors —patients, providers, payers and life sciences organizations. Blockchain will also help integrate external vendors who may run artificial intelligence and machine learning models on this data for a variety of use cases such as real-world evidence or genomic analysis.

Q: What do you think will be the most significant blockchain applications in healthcare over the next five years?

VM: Key use cases of blockchain today are developed around notions of an immutable ledger and a decentralized trust. Blockchain helps address the data access trust and consensus issues around the source, access and transmission of data —issues that impacted interoperability in the past and are now impeding data sharing across enterprises. Blockchain's trust-based model is likely to gain ground as a more transparent and persistent way to achieve seamless, secure and universal data exchange between healthcare organizations and the patients they serve.

Q: What do health IT leaders at hospitals and health systems need to know about blockchain today?

VM: Hospitals and health systems looking at blockchain as an opportunity need to first address immediate problems that the technology can solve. Today, blockchain use cases typically tend to focus on data access to a consortium, granting and revoking selective access of data, and developing an immutable audit log of all transactions. Many healthcare organizations are exploring blockchain as a solution to enable sharing of data in an auditable and compliant manner to draw insights.

Technology platforms themselves are evolving significantly. Cloud computing vendors are bringing their own take on blockchain. Looking a little beyond the current hype, there is a clear shortage of technology professionals — from software architects to engineers — with blockchain experience.

Finally, a well-defined deployment strategy and robust execution will be key to initial success. Early adopters would need to identify appropriate use cases that gain the most from blockchain notions. This would not only enable them to justify early investments but may also put them in a position to define best practices and proven reference models for blockchain in healthcare.

To participate in future Becker's Q&As, contact Jackie Drees at jdrees@beckershealthcare.com.

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