I foresee blockchain technology and encryption driving innovation in preventative care and community-based healthcare models. This technology is the missing link that will enable a synergy between rising trends in healthcare that will be vital in helping the US (and world) improve the health of communities. The trends I foresee being involved that will enable this innovation are as follows:
- Innovative Health Care Models: The rise of experiments in healthcare such as Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) and community-based healthcare indicate an increased focus on preventative vs. reactionary healthcare.
- New Technology & Data: The increased utility and prevalence of Electronic Health Records (EHR) and mobile health applications (example: Apple Health) foreshadow a future where individual and aggregate population data has greater utility.
- The Blockchain & Cryptography: A new method pseudonymously collecting, storing, protecting, and sharing health data may be possible without violating the requirements of HIPAA that have traditionally limited the utility of health data and delayed its use in real-time.
In a time where we are only beginning to harness the utility of health-related data and technology the emergence of these three factors may make the following scenario possible in the near-term future.
1. More Data: Through the use of mobile health applications / services and the refinement of electronic health records / systems / databases we will be collecting more individual and population based health measures than ever. The sample size for population data will increase exponentially.
2. Encryption and Comprehensive Population Health Data: By properly securing the identity of patients through cryptography and storing individual health records to a blockchain we will make available an aggregate database of community health records that can be used in community focussed preventative care programs, driving population health without violating the critical rules of HIPAA. This would make it possible to use ALL data from ALL medical records for populations rather than relying on voluntary release.
3. Pseudonymous Patient-Focussed Health Recommendations: The most exciting possibility of this scenario is that of encrypted health advisories and warnings. In a scenario where the identity of an indivudal remains secure but their health information can be contributed to an aggregate of data on a blockchain it would be possible to blindly relay encrypted patient-specific health recommendations securely back to the patient based on their data in real-time. The recommendation, though delivered to an anonymous patient, would be based on their own information, risk factors, etc.
The overwhelming trend in healthcare to drive towards more proactive and community-focused preventative care models (preventing disease or injury before they occur or metastesize) make this potential scenario all the more relevant. A future where medical records can be fully shared but also fully secured and encrypted could usher in a new era of understanding for population health and care.
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