How AI and Blockchain Can Help Ease Interoperability Between Healthcare Systems

By Tom Hickman, U.S. director of business development and sales, Chainyard.

The healthcare industry is under intense pressure to improve its efficiency. However, interoperability between technology and various integrated systems presents many challenges that are hindering health facilities from being fully connected and productive.

We have known for years that healthcare needs solutions that artificial intelligence can provide. But the initial proofs of concept have taken too long to materialize. Without clear boundaries and use cases showing how AI in healthcare can work, leadership teams are unable to horizontally collaborate with each other.

How AI in Healthcare Could Solve Interoperability Problems

Technology has the potential to transform the way healthcare works for patients, but right now, interoperability is difficult to attain. Despite industry guides such as the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, data is still a messy business. Data is stored in different ways and in different silos — and not every facility has the ability to read and understand the information contained within the respective silos and make it actionable.

This has a heavy impact on how practitioners work with technology. A radiologist reading film and a doctor making a diagnosis for a chronic pain patient only have access to their siloed expertise. With AI solutions in healthcare, data can be drawn from different disciplines and diagnosis can become faster and smarter.

When used in conjunction with AI, blockchain technology has the power to help practitioners and organizations work together without security risks. Because the blockchain represents a transparent, single source of information that cannot be changed, it can store data from multiple sources and create a harmonized picture of truth that different users can access without bias. In addition, limits can be put in place as to who has access to the data.

This helps healthcare experts form a central hub where the very best knowledge, therapies, and drug research can be pooled, therefore helping target diseases more effectively while keeping patient and research data absolutely secure and private.

It’s clear that leaders at healthcare organizations need to remove the siloed approach and develop an atmosphere of increased collaboration. But how, exactly?

How Blockchain, AI, and Healthcare Can Work Together

Blockchain technology in healthcare helps fulfill all four kinds of interoperability defined by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society: foundational, structural, semantic, and organizational. Blockchain’s uses in healthcare create a basis — a structure — where data can live safely and transparently. Then, blockchain can enable a rendering that helps different kinds of readers see and understand the data.

Two aspects of blockchain technology that are especially interesting to the healthcare industry are permissioned blockchains and smart contracts. A permissioned blockchain maintains the privacy of data, knows all the stakeholders, and makes data viewable by actors on the network who are authorized to see it. Smart contracts are “instructions” on the blockchain that are executed automatically once all necessary conditions or events are met. This means decisions can be made available automatically without human intervention. That’s where the power of AI’s uses in healthcare really materialize. This harmonized dataset — coupled with safe and secure automation — means that AI can be used to make faster, better, and more predictive decisions.

Data is the engine behind AI, but it’s also becoming the engine behind healthcare systems and how doctors diagnose and treat patients. If we can aggregate and translate vast amounts of data into streamlined workflows, AI can be used to efficiently diagnose and monitor patients, detect illness, accelerate drug development, and seamlessly run clinical trials.

The ingredients for interoperability are all there, but it’s now up to operators and developers to find ways to work together. The benefits of AI in healthcare are massively transformative — as long as we can find ways to solve problematic perceptions of blockchain and data privacy and get human beings to open up their silos.

No one technology will save the future of healthcare interoperability. It will take collaboration between developers, operators, academics, drug researchers, and an interwoven stack of technologies to bring together a universe of data and put it to good use.


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