This week MedCity News hosted its Converge conference in Philadelphia, bringing together innovative thought leaders from across all healthcare sectors to provide actionable insight on where medical innovation is heading. During a fireside chat, Nishan Kulatilaka, Merck's Associate Director in Applied Technology, discussed how healthcare could meaningfully deploy blockchain technology, which is considered the key innovation of the Bitcoin digital currency network. Below, we have reprinted an excerpt from a MedCity News article on the chat covered by Andrew Zaleski, a Philadelphia-based freelance writer:
Bitcoin acolytes, rejoice. The blockchain could soon be hitting the healthcare industry. Let’s get weird.
Yes, it just so happens that crypto-currencies are more than the payment tools of ransomware hackers. The underpinning technology, the blockchain, could actually be deployed by the healthcare industry for myriad uses, an idea that was batted around during a fireside chat with Merck’s Nishan Kulatilaka at the MedCity CONVERGE conference in Philadelphia this week.
“The blockchain is a distributed system where every node has a ledger of everything that happens. You get a new level of transparency where you can verify what happened,” said Kulatilaka, an associate director of product management and applied technology at the pharmaceutical giant.
In healthcare, something like the blockchain could be used in setting up vaccine registries or transactional histories for patients. During clinical trials, the blockchain could be used to share blood test information; for, say, five different trials, only one blood test would then be needed. The blockchain could also be paired with a patient’s current electronic medical record to provide a new level of data integrity and interoperability, meaning patient data could be shared across organizations and people without compromising the security of the information that’s stored.