Revolutionising health - blockchain and wearable technology
29 March 2018
In the last of a series of blogs looking at how blockchain can transform healthcare systems and ultimately patient care, Ailis Mone, from PwC’s Blockchain team, explains how wearable technology can improve patient health.
Wearable technology has taken the world by storm over the past number of years. People want to know how their body works and how they can live healthier, happier and longer lives. Wearable technology has opened a door to many people to monitor their fitness levels and sleeping patterns, so they can take control over their own health.
An example is a necklace specifically designed for dementia sufferers which could use pulse detection to recognise if the patient’s heart rate increases, to identify if they are under stress or if their condition is deteriorating. The same applies to the swallowing of medication. If patients lose their ability to swallow, this could trigger the use of liquid medicines by prescribers or a step up in therapy and potentially slow down the deterioration process, extending the patient’s quality of life.
Carers could monitor how patients are in real time and be alerted to any abnormalities or if the dementia sufferer is leaving the premises. Not only could the data collection be disease preventative, it could improve patient safety and give patients the opportunity to live independently for longer. This can all be done using discrete devices that transmit data directly to health-care professionals and store the information on the patient’s health record.
All of this data is highly sensitive as it incorporates a patient’s identity. Wearable devices have security vulnerabilities and provide hackers with an extra point of entry to intercept health-care records. The impact of this threat was realised during the NHS cyber-attack this year, where ransomware encrypted NHS data, demanding payment in bitcoin to decrypt the files. If health records were to be deleted or compromised this would cause a serious threat to a patient’s quality of care, delaying diagnosis and available treatments and leading to long waiting lists for re-tests. If data involving patient health is hacked it could be sold onto malicious parties, and this could lead to expenses for medical treatments not received by the patient or cancelled insurance policies due to fraudulent claims made under the patient’s name. Not to mention the risk to a patient’s health if a hacker was to tamper with their health records.
With the use of blockchain, every wearable device and mobile application, could link to a patient hub with all of the patient’s health records, giving health-care professionals a single distributed view of the information in real-time and improved view of the patient’s. Multi-disciplinary teams could contribute and collaborate on one patient’s record, updating their information in real time and allowing health-care professionals to easily access the most concise and up-to-date data, leading to faster diagnosis and prescribing without compromising on accuracy. This could mean that less time is spent in review appointments as doctors may not have to see the patient face to face, creating cost efficiencies for the health service, and allowing medical professionals to focus on other areas of health protection and improvement.
Medical professionals could be triggered to look at patient data if it is abnormal, potentially giving light to a life threatening condition at an early stage. By having this data accessible it is easier for paramedics to prepare for treatment whilst travelling to the patient. They can see if pulse or blood pressure is stable or if the rate at which the patient is deteriorating.
We have just touched on what could be achieved through the use of blockchain and wearable technology. A blockchain solution could make the data retrieved from wearable technology immutable and secure and give health-care professionals real-time access to data they can trust is accurate, while maintaining confidentiality and limiting patient data to those who have authorised access. It even has the potential to give patients ownership of their healthcare data allowing them to choose who accesses their health records, increasing the value of their data and allowing the patient to benefit financially and medically, and since records would be secure, the data could be linked to various apps. All records would have an immutable audit trail, recording when health records were accessed, updated and by who, making each participant accountable for their actions and reducing the risk of fraud. This audit trail could be used to form graphical representation of the patient’s health and patterns can be identified, such as triggers for stress.
We believe that we can create a better health journey. A journey which is secure, shared and seamless, improving trust through traceability and enabling the best possible care for patients.