How do we build the solutions that will transform healthcare’s future?
Posted 20th May 2019 by Joshua Sewell
We are building the solutions that will revolutionise healthcare in the future: solutions that will transform the trust relationship between the industry and patients, and the whole dynamic of healthcare. As co-founder of 23 Consulting, I am involved in supporting health organisations with their blockchain projects.
Our activities revolve around two aspects of blockchain in healthcare. The first is education because we believe that as early adopters of the technology, we should contribute to educating the healthcare industry. Currently, there is a gap between the experts and the rest of the industry, and the gap needs bridging to drive innovation.
The second thing we do is help clients design and implement blockchain solutions. We run feasibility studies, design pilots, and get in touch with vendors to find the best solution for our clients.
What are the major adoption trends among stakeholders?
There is a significant trust issue in healthcare, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry. These trust issues drive many of the blockchain use cases, and there are two major trends we see developing.
The first involves clinical trials. How do we make sure that all the documents and results produced during clinical trials are trustworthy? Studies are showing that some results produced during clinical trials are manipulated or falsified. Many startups are working with the pharmaceutical industry, regulators or healthcare providers to find an appropriate blockchain solution to address these issues. 23 Consulting is part of the puUSE working group that gathers industry stakeholders to design a blockchain solution for data management and clinical research. Blockchain is sometimes presented as an ‘audit trail on steroids’, which I think is a good description!
The second area is the supply chain. This is a great example of a blockchain use case. The technology is essentially designed to track value between parties that don’t trust one another, and this is precisely one of the main issues in the pharmaceutical supply chain. I believe this is where we will see the first large scale implementation of blockchain, and we are ourselves working on such a project.
What is it that makes use cases successful?
In my experience, there are a couple of steps that any type of stakeholder can follow to build a use case. This goes way beyond simply finding information online and looking to apply it to their business.
The first step we take with clients is education. We want to have the same understanding of what blockchain is and what it can or cannot do, and to have a common vocabulary as we progress with the use-cases.
The second is understanding the client’s work and the major pain points in their operations. At this stage, we try and forget about blockchain and focus on the pain points. We see many companies simply start with blockchain and see where they could fit it in. However, we find that the best way to proceed is to start from pain points and see which technologies are available and best suited to providing a solution.
If blockchain is a good solution to the problem, then we take it forward and build a use case, but if other technologies could fit better, then we don’t proceed with blockchain.
We also find that it is useful when thinking about a blockchain solution to ‘start small’ and target “quick wins”. Quick wins are a great way to move from theory to practice as they validate the initial idea and allows the team to gain experience and expertise. They are also an ideal way to test the use case and identify possible obstacles.
Right now, blockchain in healthcare still relies too much on theoretical lists of use cases. Although necessary, these lists tend to present applications that are certainly disruptive but also very complex to implement. With a well-conducted training, much more realistic use cases, specific to each organisation and easy to deploy in the short term can emerge, thus constituting these “quick wins”. Rather than trying to change entire models with blockchain, we go into a micro-level of detail to identify the pain point and the area where trust is lacking.
What are the big lessons that you’ve learnt about the technology itself: its potential capabilities and challenges?
Healthcare is close behind finance and insurance when it comes to industries that will be disrupted by blockchain. Because there are so many items that require tracing and tracking, many processes that need more transparency and many trust issues, there is certainly potential for the technology to make an impact.
There are plenty of opportunities, but how to make them a reality isn’t something that we have an exact answer to at the moment. I see that the industry is really divided when it comes to blockchain. Some experts are operating independently and try to come together in various working groups and events. Then there is ~98% of the industry that is relatively unaware of developments and still in need of education.
Sometimes I feel that as experts, we can forget to pay attention to the rest of the industry and bring everyone on board. The current gap in expertise is significant and it is hard for the majority of the industry – who we meet with daily – to keep up to speed with what the experts are saying. One of the main things I believe we need to do is to make the effort to take the rest of the field with us, but without slowing down innovation.
We are still at the very beginning of exploring blockchain in healthcare; at the stage of informing our audience and building proofs-of-concept and pilot projects. Everything from here forward is exciting because we will start to see the first real implementations and impact of the technology, and get concrete answers to the questions the technology is raising.
CybSec and Blockchain Health is a unique opportunity to learn from those at the forefront of Blockchain technology and its application in health. To view the full range of speakers, download the agenda.
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