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Transforming Healthcare through Blockchain: Building a Private Data Marketplace

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Blockchain has applications across all industries and use cases.  Two of the most exciting industries primed to be transformed by blockchain are healthcare and life sciences.  The global blockchain healthcare market is currently growing at a CAGR of 71.8% (2018-2023), and estimated to be at $5.6B in 2025.  In addition to the robust forecast growth, 40% of healthcare executives cite blockchain as a top 5 priority.  

Why do we see this type of growth forecasted for blockchain in healthcare?  Healthcare organizations run many complex, data-intensive processes. These processes are often performed by intermediaries who handle data and trust mechanisms, exactly the type of processes that blockchain can simplify and automate.  Since blockchain offers a single, immutable source of truth that can easily and securely be accessed, updated, shared and audited, healthcare is an industry that can be simplified and transformed through blockchain.

Common Challenges in Healthcare

The healthcare industry has always been a target for cybersecurity threats.  In 2019 alone, a staggering 41M patient records were breached, with almost three times the number of breaches over the previous year.  With an average cost of $6.45M per breach, the healthcare industry is ready to solve this problem.\

“Health data is some of the most valuable, and personal, data that exists, and that makes it a target,” said Heather Flannery, Founder and CEO of ConsenSys Health. “Healthcare organizations around the globe have prioritized cybersecurity to protect their customers, but they need more sophisticated solutions that can be built with new technology, like blockchain.”

Patient records are held by multiple entities, often with differing versions of the truth and with varying purposes for the data, from clinical to financial.  This complexity has led to patients having difficulty in accessing their own data, in addition to duplications, errors, and propensity for fraud. Patients often struggle to understand and navigate the world of healthcare payments, making it difficult for providers to collect. On the research side, clinical trial data is challenging to collect and often stored insecurely, making it difficult to verify and validate.   Lack of transparency in medical supplies and prescription drug supply chains causes safety issues.  

All of these challenges are real and exist today, but blockchain is uniquely suited to help.  In fact, the healthcare industry could save an estimated $100 - $150 billion per year by 2025 by adopting blockchain to solve these types of challenges.

The Benefits of Blockchain in Healthcare

Blockchain offers potential solutions to many of the challenges facing the healthcare industry.  Patients can take control of their data, including deciding who it gets shared with. Clinical trials can be accelerated by streamlining access to critical patient data. Smart contracts can automate claims management and payments, significantly accelerating approval times and minimizing errors.

The secure and immutable nature of blockchain is ideally suited to help with transparency and tracking.  If stakeholders provide explicit permission, clinical research data can be rapidly exchanged, resulting in more accurate trial outcomes.  

Blockchain in Healthcare illustration

Blockchain-based data sovereignty and permissioned exchange scenarios will result in better, faster, and more cost-effective medical discoveries. Advancements in medical data management will result in more competent patient care.

Blockchain technology not only helps solve some of healthcare’s operational challenges such as interoperability, compliance and secure data exchange but it also enables new patient-centric business models, fostering personalized medicine and advanced clinical research.

“Blockchain represents more than a new technology for healthcare; it will open up new ways of working, improved patient experience possibilities, and new business models,” said Heather Flannery, Founder and CEO of ConsenSys Health. “While we’re excited about the tactical problems we can solve, the true opportunity is to work with the healthcare ecosystem to leapfrog where we are today in order to build a more sustainable healthcare system.”

A Real-Life Example

The opportunities for improving healthcare processes are real and being proven out every day.  Kaleido is working to create a Private Data Marketplace, allowing members to leverage the collective knowledge of the consortium while ensuring that each member is fairly compensated for its data collection efforts. Here’s how it works.

In this scenario, several service providers agree to share vendor data with one another using a data marketplace that is managed with blockchain tokens. A provider who needs to obtain up-to-date information about a particular vendor can choose either to collect the data themselves and then sell it to other consortium members or to purchase it from members who have already collected it.

A name and description for each data payload are listed on the marketplace, along with the date it was collected, its cost in tokens, and a score based on the quality ratings of other buyers, allowing members to make informed purchasing decisions. Consortia members contribute to data collection using a controlled supply of tokens. The blockchain-based solution allows members to share the type of vendor data they have, sharing only enough detail to allow other members to determine if it is something they need and want to purchase.  

When data is available for purchase, all network members are notified of the new item available for purchase.  Any network member interested in purchasing the vendor information can view the details, assess the cost, check out the ratings to assess the quality of the data, and purchase the data directly from the network member who owns the data.  

The exchange is done securely off-chain and the transaction is hashed to the blockchain for transparency.   The solution leverages Kaleido’s Blockchain Business Cloud, using integrated features and Services like Document Store, Smart Contract Management, On-Chain Registry, REST API Gateway, and Event Streams.  

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