Breaking Down the Wall: Blockchain in Healthcare and Pharma

Podcast, Videos


Ray Dogum, Senior Consultant and Blockchain Strategist at ConsenSys Health and Podcaster at Health Unchained, joined me for a deep-dive into all things blockchain in Pharma and healthcare. Among many other topics, we explored innovative use cases, current barriers, and how to break down the wall of blockchain within the healthcare arena.

Here is a sneak peek of our conversation:

Q: We hear a lot about blockchain, but built on top of this, is the concept of ethereum. We hear a lot about these ideas of smart contracts, oracle networks, and chainlinks. Can you maybe Illuminate a little bit for us what we mean when we’re talking about healthcare and this idea of creating a smart contract? What would be a use case example of that?

A: That’s a really good question. I just want to say I like the way you explained blockchain as a sort of safer Internet. I think I agree with that. Just to add to that thought before I answer your question, the Internet can be seen as a way of exchanging content and information with other people over the world. Blockchain is a way of exchanging real hard value over the Internet and across the world.

Now back to your question on what is ethereum and what smart contracts have to do with healthcare. I do think that ethereum and potentially other sorts of decentralized protocols or smart world’s computers can allow developers, communities, and organizations to create unblockable, unbreakable contracts that are going to run whether you like it or not. That is important in the payer space, the healthcare payer for example.

Right now, every individual or group of individuals might have a policy with their health plan. So, if you wanted to get a certain service done it would cost this amount of money. All of those are basically policy contracts written in plain language and get executed once the parties agree that a certain service has been provided or whatnot. One challenge we currently have in the healthcare system is the acceptance of a payment of a service for a provider. I see a doctor, the doctor needs to be paid; depending on if I’m in-network or out of network, and a lot of other complicated algorithms that the health plan and health provider agree upon, every health plan and health provider has different contracts, so that service, financial asset or money will get transferred over to that provider.

If we can do that in a way that doesn’t require humans to, I don’t want to say “approved” because I think in the end, we will have humans approve it on the blockchain. But, what we can do is make sure that it is completely auditable and it doesn’t rely on a single centralized company or server. We can have a more ecosystem-based smart contract tool or protocol that will manage those contracts intelligently in the back end.

Getting to that point though will take a lot of time. I don’t think we’re gonna have health plans using ethereum right away with smart contracts. I will say that the largest clearinghouse for health plans is Changed Healthcare and they are experimenting heavily with blockchain technology so that’s just something to take note of.

For more of our discussion, you can watch the whole Fireside Chat with Ray Dogum, or listen to the podcast version, below.

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