A coffee case study has lessons for blockchain in healthcare
Coffee has loads of health benefits, though it’s not typically the go-to place for innovative approaches to health information systems. So I was intrigued by a coffee story that appeared in a June edition of Seattle Business magazine.
Scott Tupper is an anthropologist and founder of Onda Origins coffee, a company that combines ideas on improving wealth disparity in the world, with a passion for information technology, and coffee. He uses the unique characteristics of blockchain technology to improve information accuracy and accountability in the coffee trade, driven through Yave, a company he started for this purpose.
Blockchain structures are used to capture information at key steps along the coffee supply chain, from farmer to consumer. This creates a single source of truth about the coffee bean’s journey, encrypted and shared across a trusted, distributed network. And that sounds a lot like what we aim to achieve when building health records.
Yave constructs multiple registers for each coffee consignment journey. The first register records the coffee producer’s name and electronic ID, the shipment’s ID, the coffee’s place of origin, the amount of coffee and the coffee’s description and quality score. That is encrypted and becomes the first block in a new blockchain.
At key stages in the supply chain, an additional block is added to the chain, such as when the shipment is received at a mill, or passes through exporters and importers, or roasters. The mill register includes details about the milling process followed, initial roasting, and the results of taste test scores. At each stage new registers are created and existing data, such as taste scores, may be updated with new values. Since blockchain data is immutable, the old data is never overwritten. When new data is added, both new and old values remain in the chain and are auditable. At each stage, the new data is broadcast to the network, which can access all the information.
How these details change across the supply chain helps to set the final assessment of the quality of the coffee bean, which affects pricing, and helps to review the quality of the supply chain, which drives operational improvements. The coffee-folk believe that one of the most valuable aspects of this application of blockchain is the ability to verify coffee’s origin and other key details of steps along the way to our cups, thereby making it easier to make value judgements about the final product and what you and I should pay for it.
As we learn more about Blockchain technical attributes, we are beginning to recognise it as a tool for democratisation, sharing data ownership and access equally with all participants. This distributed architecture puts participants in control of their data in new ways that are technically extremely challenging with more conventional systems architectures.
While Blockchain protects our coffee supply chain, it has the potential to transform ownership of our health data too.
Image from the Yave site, https://www.yave.io/
- 292 views
- June 20, 2018
- Sean Broomhead
Blockchain for beginners is still needed
Blockchain is a hot topic everywhere, including in healthcare. I have been writing about it for eHNA, exploring use cases and applications. I've had lots of positive feedback, yet a question remains for many: how does blockchain technology actually work? Today's piece introduces some basic concepts.
Firstly, bitcoin and blockchain are not the same thing. Bitcoin is a digital currency or cryptocurrency that is administered on blockchain technology. It combines many existing concepts, including large databases, voluntary participation, peer-to-peer networks, distributed ledgers, and cryptography, to protect users' information against fraud.
There are three levels of how blockchain technology is currently being used:Storage of digital recordsExchange of digital assets in the form of tokens, and Execution of smart contracts.
Smart contracts set the ground rules for how transactions take place. They execute the contracts while monitoring compliance and automatically validate the results of each transaction.
To work, blockchain relies on consensus. This gives rise to the concept of mining. Each new block added to a given blockchain follows a consensus model which is approved by the network of connected nodes. The level of agreement in consensus models may vary across blockchain networks.
Encryption of information on a blockchain is achieved by hash functions. These map data of arbitrary size to data of a fixed size through a cryptographic method or algorithm. Hash function outputs are unique, asymmetric and random, ensuring security on the blockchain.
That's probably not enough information to get you started on mining your own blockchain, but hopefully sufficient to tweak your curiosity about this elegant technology. I'll post more over the next few weeks.
- 281 views
- May 15, 2018
- Ameera Hamid
Data accuracy: another use case for blockchain
As blockchain technology continues to excite the healthcare industry with opportunities for better access to healthcare data, data security and efficiency, 5 companies have banded together to explore another use case for it.
Many managed care organisations, health systems, physicians, and other healthcare stakeholders currently maintain separate copies of healthcare provider data. Reconciling differences in this data can be a time-consuming and expensive processes. Blockchain could help bring down administrative costs by ensuring data is complete and accurate across all parties.
Humana, MultiPlan, Optum, Quest Diagnostics and UnitedHealthcare recently announced a cooperative pilot program to use blockchain technology to share healthcare provider data across organisations. This aims to improve accuracy, streamline administrative activities and improve access to care. It will also examine whether sharing healthcare provider data inputs and changes made by parties across a blockchain can reduce operational costs and improve data quality.
With technology's rapid advances, it's critical that African countries make room for these types of emerging opportunities in their eHealth strategies. Along with rigorous prospective assessments to ensure viability and sustainability.
- 287 views
- April 04, 2018
- Ameera Hamid
An analytical view of Blockchain aids understanding
Paradigm shifts are regularly sought after by information and ICT initiatives. As a set of ideas, assumptions, and values that can help to live and see the world, a paradigm doesn’t seem easy to shift. In The Business Blockchain, published by Wiley, William Mougayar describes how Blockchain’s a paradigm shift.
It’s part of a sequence of paradigm shifts of the Internet, the World Wide Web, and now Blockchain. He’s firm that Blockchain’s different to all that’s originated before. It’s also tricky to understand, with a clear grasp of its philosophy essential to comprehend its technical components.
Blockchain has six enablers, programmable:AssetsTrustOwnershipMoneyIdentityContracts.
Creating ATOMIC, Mougayar delves well into each of these. This delving and diving’s a characteristic of the book. It’s the knowledge and insights that these provide ensure it’s not a superficial overview or description. Examples are the explanation of the set of basic principles and the emphasis on Blockchain’s decentralisation features.Wynton Marsalis, the jazz trumpeter said to understand art, you must come to art. Art will not come to you. This resonates with Blockchain. Mougayar’s book’s essential to begin the journey. Africa’s health systems need to follow the tricky route to ensure strategic opportunities are not lost.
- 378 views
- March 15, 2018
- Ameera Hamid
Healthcare enters the blockchain ecosystem
Over the last few years, healthcare has seen a record number of security breaches involving healthcare data. This has prompted several start-ups to realise the work that needs to be done on the cyber-security front to make healthcare data secure. Blockchain offers one potential solution to this challenge. Other solutions offered by blockchain include interoperability and the ability to connect data silos for more seamless systems and improved patient safety.
SimplyVital Health is one of those start-ups experimenting with blockchain technology to give the healthcare industry a facelift. The company has developed a decentralised open-source protocol that will enable frictional-less sharing of healthcare data. Their Health Nexus is a public-permissioned blockchain. It provides a platform to build advanced healthcare applications while maintaining the privacy and security required in the healthcare industry.
The developer tools on the Health Nexus are open source and available for free. Members are able to build and deploy distributed apps utilising the blockchain protocol for transactions, identity and smart contracts, and a distributed hash table (DHT) for data storage, managed by a governance system. This will allow developers to create valuable solutions for pharmacies, healthcare providers, insurers, clinical researchers or patients.
Blockchain is certainly paving opportunities for new business models in healthcare. The trajectory it will follow in the coming years, however, is an unmapped terrain waiting to be explored. The road ahead for blockchain and healthcare will also require substantial intra-industry cooperation as well as dialogues between the public and private sectors regarding standards and regulatory frameworks.
- 408 views
- February 15, 2018
- Ameera Hamid
Why blockchain may be the future of healthcare
The blockchain revolution has made its way to the healthcare industry. If you haven’t heard about it yet, blockchain is a distributed system which records and stores transaction records. Think of it as a database which stores information. The main difference is that the data is located in a network of personal computers called nodes where there is no central administrator, such as a government or bank controlling the data.
On permission-less blockchains, all parties can view all records. On permissioned blockchains, privacy can be maintained by agreement about which parties can view which transactions and where, masking the identity of the party.
Blockchain principles were first applied in the financial world as the technology that allowed Bitcoin to operate. It has applications for many industries and more promisingly for healthcare.
This disruptive innovation would be able to solve many of the issues that plague healthcare today, while enjoying unprecedented security benefits because records are spread across a network of replicated databases that are always in sync.
A common database of health information can facilitate better sharing of research and evidence-based practices. It would allow healthcare professionals to access patient records no matter what electronic record system they used and, even improve supply chain management to prevent resource deficits.
Blockchain won’t be a cure-all for the industry today, but it would certainly be a step in the right direction.
- 236 views
- January 26, 2018
- Ameera Hamid
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