Healthcare Tech Trends For 2018 Part 2

5 Min Read

In the second of our series on healthcare tech, it’s all about the data.

This is our deep dive into the startups and businesses seizing opportunities around data and data security to utterly transform healthcare.

In 2018, startup growth will be about supplying consumers and suppliers with the means to improve data security, access, and use - so the right people at the right time can find the right information.

The two big buzzwords we’re seeing time and time are:

  • Traceability
  • Transparency

And entrepreneurs are leaping to supply the industry with just those two things. I’ll look first at examples in data management, and then I’ll get to healthcare data security in the latter half of the blog.

The big hype man in data in healthcare right now is blockchain.

Don’t roll your eyes just yet. Yes, Blockchain keeps being tomorrow’s game-changing technology, and it definitely reminds me of that Monty Python gag in The Holy Grail. The knight charging at the dozy guards:

Monty Python

Blockchain’s been the distant threat just coming over the hill for a decade now, but maybe one day it’ll slay the sleeping incumbents with one stroke.

Now, for those new to blockchain, think of it as a ledger, a simple notebook with a list of entries. For a more in-depth explanation, this one’s simple but comprehensive.

For this blog, all you need to remember is that blockchain is capable of delivering two things: those two hot trends of traceability and transparency. You can look back through the ledger to trace what’s gone on before, and the ledger can be read by anyone you choose.

If there’s one sector which could benefit from some traceability, it’s healthcare. Think of all those siloed hospitals, all that highly sensitive data sloshing around, and the terrible doctors’ handwriting that spreads it. My emergency dentist refused to perform my root canal a few weeks ago because she couldn’t read the notes from my usual dentist. Had she had blockchain, she could have easily discovered the history of the problem tooth, and trusted its information.

The industry has taken note: IBM’s report last year found 16% of surveyed healthcare executives had solid plans to implement a commercial blockchain solution this year, while 56% expected to by 2020.

You can bet that entrepreneurs are even further ahead on blockchain than those execs.

One startup, Chronicled, has leapt on the traceability gap in transporting pharmaceuticals. They can track physical medical supplies such as drugs and human organs with smart seals and sensors. Both drugs and organs are very heat sensitive, but blockchain can be used in such a way that the ledger records the temperatures as data which cannot be falsified or inaccurate. It can also be automated to produce an action, for example a warning text message that a set of vaccines is about to breach the temperature parameter and urgent action is needed.

While traceability is logistics’ big problem, the huge consumer megatrend of 2018 will be transparency.

Consumers are starting to take back more control of their data, demand more information on the history of the products they use, and apply those two things to achieve personalisation. Once again, blockchain is the tool de jour.

Patientory is forging ahead of the transparency trend. With their blockchain platform, patients can store their data, and grant visibility and access to whom they choose. Instead of an institution like the NHS storing all our data and making sure your medical carers can access it, each individual would actually be responsible for storing and communicating their own data via mobile apps and blockchain. That is actually pretty nifty, being in charge of your own data.

Patientory also has another party trick which leads us to the next bit which is…

Data Security

Blockchain’s also very good at securing data, so Patientory’s data is very safe, and other companies are jumping on blockchain for the same benefit. The blockchain company Guardtime now secures all of Estonia’s one million health records.

Why? The single huge security advantage that blockchain has is that it does not rely on humans to guard the fort. Neither Bob in Accounts with password P4ssword nor Jemma in Sales opening unsolicited email attachments can breach the security of a blockchain system. It’s a sort of herd immunity with no one weak spot. It’s like the opposite of a drain on the Death Star.

Of course, blockchain is not a wondrous cure-all and is only one part of the future for the health industry.

What IS certain is that consumers are demanding higher and higher levels of security, and as the news is rocked by NHS ransomware, Uber hacks and cyberwarfare, industry is finally starting to take security far more seriously.

In fact, we’re starting to see the transformation of Security from an expensive isolated chore to an integral part of development operations, to “DevSecOps”. The process morphs into a natural loop between development and operation. The attitude changes from a desire to prevent every single attack, to an understanding that successful attacks are inevitable and therefore reaction, detection and cure are as fundamental to defence.

And if you think about it, the human body functions more like the latter. It’s not even trying to keep every bug and invader out of the body, but it’s very good at sending white blood cells to kill off the few who get through.

For more healthcare tech startup innovations, hit us up on Twitter, or put your email down for our next Issue (down below). The next blog we’ll be publishing will deal with the massive opportunity in consumer-facing healthcare apps, there are definitely a few baby unicorns in there.