“It isn’t about greed, it’s about quickly and securely sharing data to improve health outcomes.”

Florence Hudson

Blockchain, or, more generically, “digital ledger technology” is going to impact a very large, highly educated army of doctors and clinicians, IT professionals, cybersecurity specialists, organizational leadership, federal regulators, patients and more.

“Ultimately, blockchain for healthcare isn’t about greed, it’s about quickly and securely sharing data to provide valuable content and context to improve outcomes,” says Florence Hudson, a former IBM vice president and chief technology officer and current founder and CEO of advanced technology consultancy FDHint, LLC.

But the sharing of data without a centralized authority (digital ledger technology) brings security and provenance questions that haven’t been answered. Yet. In advance of her SEMDA 2019 Medtech Conference keynote which intends to unpack the current state, goals and opportunities for digital ledger technology in healthcare, Ms. Hudson shared with us the following.

Q: How would a seed stage investor begin to evaluate a healthcare blockchain startup?

A: The investors will need to engage a technologist to examine the startups’ technical risk. What is the true immutability of the company’s offering? Are they creating a central authority or are the data truly distributed? Do not be wowed by the blockchain. It must work in a significantly different way in healthcare than in the financial system.

If a young company is espousing a valuable blockchain for healthcare technology, they must be able to convincingly answer how they have architected and enabled TIPPSS – trust, identity, privacy, protection, safety and security. How are they entrusting that it is actually the doctor accessing an implanted, data-generating device and the ledger? Is that doctor still with the same institution? Are they still credentialed for example? Satisfying TIPPSS is a LOT to achieve, so beware and engage experts for evaluation.

Q: How do buyers in this technology evaluate its potential or utility?

A: What is the technology’s value proposition? Can it ensure data provenance without a central authority? Let’s look at sample data tracking of biomarkers for cancer care. Labs, patients, hospitals and providers, CROs, payers and regulators will all need to access and understand how a distributed ledger technology benefits them. Is it financial, risk reducing, efficiency generating? Will you be able to track those data and process them more easily? That could be a powerful value proposition.

Q: Where are the top immediate needs and potential startup opportunities for blockchain in healthcare?

A: Secure data sharing via blockchain moving us toward precision medicine and precision oncology, blockchain for the pharmaceutical supply chain, as well as blockchain for clinical trials are at or near the top of the list. In a clinical trials scenario, imagine a distributed ledger that could synchronize a pharmaceutical manufacturer’s clinical trial development process with regulators and providers, then connect to a public blockchain for patient advocate groups to increase the number of participants in the trial. The manufacturer of course wouldn’t share proprietary details of the chemical compound(s), but it may more effectively make the trial and benefits known to the concerned community. If we can streamline the clinical trial process, we could accelerate drugs to market and improve healthcare outcomes.

There are clear opportunities for hospitals and connected devices, data sharing for precision medicine and personal patient medical records. If you could securely acquire data from a contextual history (i.e. multiple family members), connect with permissions to them, then connect to those with similar DNA, who knows what we could do?

Ms. Hudson will unpack all of this further and dive into important issues not addressed here, like IEEE prestandards work for clinical IoMT and data in blockchain, existing partnerships and deployments and more in a keynote at the SEMDA 2019 Medtech Conference April 8-10 in Atlanta. Register today!