“The pace of the government is not as fast as the development of blockchain technology companies right now … The government needs more time to evaluate all these things before they can fully give permission and support to blockchain technologies.”—Hee Tae
The healthcare industry is one of the most labor intensive and document intensive industries. One might add, it is also one of the most regulated industries where nearly anyone who treats a patient must be licensed. Moreover, clinics and hospitals must undergo accreditation and inspections by bodies such as JCAHO.
Thus the need for a highly secured and available database technology in healthcare is paramount if the industry is to gain efficiencies and lower costs. Blockchain has the potential to do just that. With its distributed ledger technology, transparency, and immutability—it has the potential to transform how medical records, supply chain, and ordering of drugs and supplies can be managed. Blockchain technology can also help with medical research and a patient’s need to share their medical records across entities, and the possibility to provide consent with smart contracts.
Healthcare to Adopt Blockchain by 2020
The blockchain revolution seems to be making its way into almost every industry right now, and healthcare is not exempt. IBM reported in 2017 that a study of 200 healthcare executives in 16 countries found that 16% are beyond experimenting—they fully expect to have a commercial blockchain solution at scale in 2017. The study also demonstrated that mass adopters (56%) would follow from 2018 to 2019, and the remaining followers (29%) would adopt blockchain through 2020.
Taylor Bragg, writing for TechWire Asia, says that South Korean healthcare companies, tech innovators, and others in the industry are exploring use case scenarios for blockchain and the problems it could solve. The promise of blockchain in healthcare, says Dr. Kim Hee Tae, CEO of Cube Medical, centers on decentralization, security, protection of personal health information, and logistic automation. Companies exploring blockchain use case are looking to solve issues with electronic medical records and provide a way for records to be securely accessed by any provider who needs it.
Korea Adopts Blockchain for the Medical Industry
Korea has long been on the forefront of adopting technology. Since the days of the Korean conflict, much like the fabled Phoenix, Korea has risen past its days of total destruction. Continuing to build Korea on the memory of the “Miracle on the Hangang River” it continues to quickly tap into technology at a fast paced rate. When I last visited Seoul, my host was proud to share how South Korea had the best Wi-Fi system in the world. Indeed, I had no issues getting online. So it is not surprising to see South Korea quickly adopt blockchain for many of their industries, and now in the health care industry.
Richard Meyer, for Coindesk, reported that “Longenesis, a Riga, Latvia-based but Hong Kong-incorporated company, is bringing medical records to the blockchain in South Korea using Bitfury’s Exonum platform.”
Formed in late 2017, Longenesis has emerged to focus on medical-consent technologies. It offers a suite of “modular blockchain solutions for medical providers,” offering solutions from patient user interfaces to medical record-keeping. Given the need to trace every transaction, the platform offers linked steps in the process, verifiability, and is auditable.
Not only is South Korea adopting blockchain for medical record keeping, but so too is Taiwan. It is known for having one of the most accessible, highest quality medical care systems in the world, and a leader in adopting new technology. The Taipei Times, in September 2018, reported that Taipei Medical University Hospital used blockchain to launch on an online platform. “More than 100 community-based clinics collaborated on the project, which uses blockchain technology to address ‘common pain points’ in healthcare, including the physician referral process, transfer of data between medical institutions and personal patient portals,” the Taipei Times reported.
With this online platform, patients will have access to all of their medical records which will include medical images, lab test results, and other health care information. With smart contracts, health care providers will be able to “request and authorize patient record sharing easily and securely,” the report continued.
With the online platform, patients will be able to log in to their mobile app, authenticate in, and make requests to share their patient records with entities as needed.
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— KTrade (@_ktrade) February 12, 2019
With these two leading countries in healthcare—both have some of the best healthcare delivery systems in the world—they are proving to be a superb model of the possibilities of how America can adopt blockchain for healthcare delivery.
Imagine being able to use an online app to ask your doctor to share your medical record with your dentist prior to oral surgery. Or, the simplicity of a surgeon in one state—who needs to your healthcare record prior to doing a simple surgical procedure—to request patient charts and receive access within seconds.
The challenges faced by the American healthcare system remain formidable. With desperate financing, size of the U.S. in terms of population, government structure from federal, to state, to local—all present challenges to the healthcare delivery system in the U.S., and opportunities for a solid use case for blockchain to create efficiencies and lowering of costs.
Bragg, Taylor, “Will blockchain transform healthcare in South Korea?”, TechWire Asia, June, 2018
IBM, “Healthcare Rallies for Blockchain—Executive Report”, https://www.ibm.com/downloads/cas/BBRQK3WY, August 2019.
Meyer, Richard, “Longenesis Brings South Korean Medical Records to the Blockchain”, Coindesk, July 2019.
Staff Writer, “Hospital launches online platform”, http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2018/09/01/2003699590, August 2019.