Managing supply chain effectively can be a challenge across all sectors. As the demand for heightened security and accessibility of patient data continues to mount, the world of healthcare is investing in distributed ledger technology’s potential to transform the future of healthcare.
With the rise of blockchain technology and the increasing focus on cryptocurrency, we’re already seeing similar diversity challenges faced across the health information technology industry as a whole. In such early stages, prioritizing entrepreneurial integrity and diversity in the growing sector is critical to its success. As ‘blockchain bro’ culture develops, women in tech are banding together to emphasize gender inclusivity in this emerging space.
In a recent HIMSS #WomeninHIT webinar, Women in Blockchain: Making a Difference in Healthcare through Distributed Ledger Technology, 42 percent of attendees polled agreed blockchain has the most potential in healthcare.
Chrissa McFarlane, founder and chief executive officer of Patientory Inc., found her way into the space in 2014 when she was working with a telemedicine startup on a concierge app linking doctors and patients through asynchronous messaging. “The biggest challenge I had in that role was getting patients’ data and helping them gain access to their health information. Operationally, we were really relying on that access,” she explained. Eager to understand what could remedy these challenges, McFarlane researched emerging technologies consistently to stay on top of trends. “Then, a lightbulb clicked,” she said. “Why not marry the two industries together – blockchain and healthcare?”
Heather Flannery, co-founder of Blockchain in Healthcare Global, a health circle global lead with ConsenSys, and current co-chair of Global HIMSS Blockchain in Healthcare taskforce, first started her career as a technologist and entrepreneur then made her way into healthcare in 2005, but never took off her technologist hat.
“We see blockchain as being an effective incentive for managing control across the wide collection of applications in companies,” Flannery said. “We also see within the clinical vertical the ability to have essentially unique business assets exchanged between companies, like electronic health records or provider credential data – it would likely have a great impact how [health information exchanges] operate.”
Flannery was part of the dawn of the commercial internet and still finds herself in awe of the rapid advances she’s observed since then. “None of us really understood how incredible the outcome could be for a total paradigm shift in technology, and what it would mean for everything else: culture, society, equity, access, fairness, justice – we were just thinking about it from the perspective of technologists,” she explained. “Having an opportunity to be part of a tech revolution a second time in one professional lifespan – that’s extraordinary and unexpected.”
However, Flannery emphasizes the need for a renewed approach to blockchain technologies. “We need to do things differently this round. This round being inclusive of not only blockchain and distributed ledger, but also artificial intelligence, internet of things, and other converging innovations. We have a chance to think differently about it. It’s about how power is exercised from within a context and from within a point of view. The lens of gender is one facet of that point of view.”
Most women entering the blockchain space are avid technologists and entrepreneurial spirits, like Emily Vaughn of Change Healthcare. Vaughn described blockchain as an inherently person-centric technology that grants the end-user more agency, which she expects will have a far-reaching impact on cultural implications.
“I see a big opportunity for distributed ledger technology to empower individuals in healthcare in a way that’s really unprecedented,” she said, explaining how the technology could be more economical and affordable for person-centric applications to be designed and in-sync with larger systems. “I think the human impact, when it’s all said and done, is going to be great, and that’s something I remind myself of often as challenges inevitably come up because the technology is so new. So keeping that in mind motivates me.”
Blockchain and distributed ledger technology are taking hold in healthcare as the industry learns more about the potential to improve patient care and reduce costs.