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    Are blockchain and AI the keys to unlocking interoperability in healthcare?

     

    Once the data is organized in a transparent and fully reliable way on a blockchain, machine learning and eventually artificial intelligence (AI) can learn from the patterns in the data and execute analyses very quickly.

    Digital Reasoning is a startup that's using AI to help healthcare professionals make better decisions. It uses complex algorithms to organize data into graphs and detect patterns, helping machines "think more like people do." As a result, doctors are able to see a clearer picture of a patient's health and make more informed decisions based on all that information.

    Complications Within Interoperability

    The industry mindset around sharing data has typically been very conservative, even antagonistic. However, over the past two years, new standards like fast healthcare interoperability resources (FHIR) are leading to more sharing—35% of U.S. hospitals plan to use open APIs within the next year, and that data is their competitive advantage. In order to truly provide value to patients, though, this trend needs to continue and extend to all players in the continuum of patient care.

    Healthcare systems experts understand the importance of providers being able to collaborate, even when they don’t know one another. The trouble is that interoperability in healthcare is complicated by a variety of factors.

     

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    Because providers all operate within their own systems, identifying who previously treated a patient, as well as when and where treatment took place, can be difficult. Also, EHRs may be moved into health information exchanges, but they are still controlled by data silos. Patients cannot choose what specific data of theirs is shared. To prevent unwanted access, they may put a blanket denial on any of their health information being shared.

    Together, these factors (and many others) make interoperability a vital but difficult-to-achieve goal for healthcare systems. Therefore, one of the biggest reasons blockchain is becoming such a popular healthcare buzzword is because it may be the solution to making safe and efficient interoperability possible. And from there, with the application of AI, major innovation will accelerate.

    The Challenges to Implementing Blockchain and AI

    Despite all the problems blockchain and AI can solve for doctors, hospitals and patients, they're not without their challenges. Blockchain must resolve problems related to scalability, and AI faces the challenge of getting doctors on board.

    With AI, doctors will need to believe in the technology and trust that it's analyzing the data accurately. Doctors will still be the ones diagnosing patients and providing treatment plans, but if they don't trust the information they're receiving from AI technology, they won't be able to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

    At the end of the day, humans want to be cared for by other humans—not robots. But doctors are spending far too much time inputting information into EHRs rather than spending time with their patients. Blockchain and AI won't be able to take over all of doctors' responsibilities, but they can help them get back to what they love: helping people be healthy and heal.

    Sandy Hathaway
    Sandy Hathaway is a founding partner of Exit3x and also co-founded technology startups RetentionGrid, which focuses on big data and ...

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