“YOUR DATA – YOUR RIGHT”

The digital disruption in the healthcare industry is turning heads. The value of medical health data is on the rise, evidenced by the increasing threat of medical data theft worldwide. In fact, these days, it’s been said to be even more valuable than that of personal banking data. It came therefore as no surprise when the European Union announced its new regulation on data protection and included the protection of personal health data as part of its coverage. From May 2018, the European Union aims to increase the protection of personal health data by requiring patients to give explicit and unambiguous consent to the processing of their personal data. Patients also have the right to access their own personal data, the right to transferring their data to another entity or person, and the right to object the processing of their data.

This process is a timely development. It means patient empowerment. It returns the ownership of personal health data to the control of the individual and effectively unlocks the monopolizing control of the companies/institutions that collected that data in the first place. But what does this decentralization of data really mean and how will this revolutionize research and development in the healthcare industry?

Driving population health through meaningful health data exchange

The robust exchange of medical health data as well as ease of access are crucial in advancing research and development in the healthcare industry. The decentralization of personal health data brings us one step closer to such an eco-system, but not quite. This is because individuals generally prefer to remain anonymous when it comes to matters of health and are less likely to participate in the exchange of medical health data especially if they have concerns about data security.

According to the founders of the HIT Foundation, this is where their platform comes in. HIT (Health Information Traceability) Foundation is an organization that aims to be the leader in blockchain technology for the healthcare market by empowering patients with their medical health data ownership.

We recently met the foundation’s co-founders, Dr. Quy Vo-Reinhard and Ms. Elizabeth Chee at our last Women in Digital Health event, where they shared about the foundation’s blockchain-based online marketplace for personal health data and explained how this platform will inevitably enable collaboration to take place between companies/institutions in the healthcare industry – through the meaningful exchange of health data between stakeholders in a secure environment, and with the consent of the individual data owners.

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Image 1: Dr. Quy Vo-Reinhard, Chief Data Officer & Co-Founder, with the HIT Foundation team and advisory board on the slide behind her.

“I believe blockchain is the technology of the future. It ensures that collaborations can happen in an open and secure manner. Our platform allows entities that store the medical data (e.g. hospitals, pharmaceutical companies) to connect with those who need access to it (e.g. policymakers, research and development divisions), with the individual data owner facilitating this exchange through his/her consent,” explained Dr. Quy Vo-Reinhard.

By using blockchain technology, HIT’s online marketplace secures individual data owners’ anonymity – making it more attractive for people to participate. Through the platform data seekers can incentivize individual data owners with tokens that can be earned when participating in a data exchange.

Integrity of data is of upmost priority

To ensure the integrity of the health data exchanged on their platform, current stakeholders who store the data (e.g. hospitals, pharmaceutical companies) are very much part of the eco-system. Their participation in the eco-system ensures that the medical health data of the individual that is exchanged has been officially verified and maintains its integrity. The foundation’s platform also makes it easy for current stakeholders to participate in the market without needing to completely build a new system; just plug and play. “You, the individual, are the person who can connect the dots and facilitate a meaningful exchange. We want the critical intermediaries to be a part of the system, but it has to serve a social purpose. Your data could be used to facilitate quality of care, prevention, and drive population health,” shared Elizabeth Chee.

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Figure 1: Token Economy in three phases

The next steps

Blockchain technology’s increasing application in the healthcare industry is set to benefit many stakeholders. It will first and foremost benefit the individual by securely unifying his/her medical health data and provide a comprehensive medical history that can be easily shared by the individual to medical institutions regardless of where the data resides in the first place. It will secondly benefit medical institutions and companies who are sitting on valuable medical health data but have had no options to exchange this knowledge, because of a lack of secure data transfer options and a lack of systems in place to easily engage and facilitate consent from individual data owners. The potential of blockchain technology’s application in the healthcare industry is tremendous and will most definitely play a defining role in revolutionizing its future.

The HIT Foundation’s blockchain-based marketplace for personal health data will be launched in summer 2018. They were recently recognized as one of the” Blockchain for social good ” projects at the World Economic Forum 2018 and was invited to participate in the panel discussing “Blockchain for Humanity”.

About the author

Aisha Schnellmann is a Singaporean native who spent four years recently working within an international philanthropic foundation. A sociology graduate from the National University of Singapore, she was as often at the floating villages of Cambodia conversing with beneficiaries, and the boardrooms of multi-national companies, speaking with executives and donors.

Currently based in Zurich, her interest in digital healthcare grew from the conversations she had with committed medical staff in rural hospitals in Asia, who remain hard-pressed with the technology available to them.

By Evgeniya Jung

If somebody told me just some years ago that hospitals would soon be using social media as a means to advertising their services and communicating with potential patients, I would be pretty surprised. However, big social media platforms deservedly earned their popularity in the healthcare sector due to their effectiveness in connecting those who provide healthcare services with those who are searching for them.  It is true that in many countries hospitals still don’t view powerful social platforms like Twitter or Facebook as a communication tool between a potential patient and a hospital. But the fact remains: In many countries it has proven to be effective and lucrative for hospitals to use social platforms, also due to significant changes to the health insurance system in Switzerland over the years and the need for hospitals to prove their function as an economic enterprise, using the structure of Swiss Diagnosis Related Groups, the Swiss version of a fee-per-case system.

But not only hospitals can use social media to their advantage.  Patients can also benefit from the use of social platforms in order to convey their wishes to those, whose services they might be using later. Being a frequent guest in hospitals due to diabetes and gaining deep understanding through my experience about how medical insurance, health centres and hospitals work, I took interest in the subject of hospitals’ involvement on social media. I am going to analyse the use of social platforms by some hospitals in Switzerland in order to show what catches an eye of a patient and what she or he expects from a hospital to publish on its page.

Sharing experience, seeking advice

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First of all, it is very important for a patient to be engaged in conversations with other people, especially with those who face the same difficulties with health. Sharing experience and seeking advice is an important part of the interaction between patients and doctors or other patients, who went through the same troubles. This kind of interaction on social media can be encouraged by letting patients speak on camera about their experience through an interview (for sure, if the patient himself agrees to share his story) or letting them leave reviews and comments on social platforms.  It is also advisable to let patients speak openly about their experience at the hospital, no matter if good or bad. I found it very nice that hospitals like the Universitätsspital Zürich or the Klinik Hirslanden are answering politely on Facebook to all kinds of comments from their patients and trying to solve conflicts with all possible means. It helps show people that their opinion matters and that measures are undertaken to improve the level of satisfaction with the services.

Information and trust

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The second thing that is greatly appreciated by patients is the publication of educative videos and articles on the page of a hospital. I have found loads of informative articles on diverse health problems on the pages of different Swiss hospitals. However, the quality of content varies greatly. The best work done so far in this direction is the videos from the Klinik Hirslanden on YouTube. Their videos are very informative, helpful and comprehensible. It is essential to remember that most patients don’t have medical education and they shouldn’t get a feeling like they don’t understand what they are reading or watching. The information has to be easily interpreted and put in simple words so that even children can understand it. In this way hospitals can make connections between patients, create a friendly and caring atmosphere and build credibility and trust.

Concern and care

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Another important thing that patients value greatly when it comes to relationship between hospitals and patients is the demonstration of concern and care for other people. One of the ways to show on social media that your team at the hospital is not indifferent to the suffering of others is by posting news about different humanitarian campaigns and encouraging those who are interested and want to help to take an active part in volunteering work. I found it touching, when I discovered a link on the Facebook page of the Stadtspital Waid in Zürich to a project that a group of doctors organized in order to help establish basics for accident surgery in Tanzania. The Stadtspital Waid reported about their trip and the work the doctors are doing there. It is a great way to show support for the people who have no access to good medical care and social media can help build awareness and sympathy.

Since social media platforms are gaining popularity not only among private internet users, but also in business, it is only left to say that every hospital that wants to ensure its further success and development needs to consider being active on social platforms. Many hospitals in Switzerland are moving in the right direction, providing all the information needed for the patients about the hospital itself and its services. It allows building a bridge between a patient and a hospital, because communication is the very first and most important step in promoting mutual cooperation and trust between the two parties.

Are you a hospital or another institution in the healthcare system? Do you want to raise the attention of your stakeholders and improve communications to (potential) patients, medical doctors etc.? Then we might be able to help you.
Yes, I want to learn more about social media in healthcare

Sind sie für ein Spital oder eine andere Institution im Gesundheitswesen tätig? Wollen Sie die Kommunikation mit Ihren Stakeholdern wie (potentiellen) Patienten, Ärzten und Mitarbeitenden verbessern? Gerne helfen wir Ihnen dabei.
Informieren Sie sich bei uns über Social Media im Gesundheitswesen

(Services are available in German and English / Unsere Dienstleistung sind in Deutsch und Englisch verfügbar)

Picture sources:

https://radiantmarketingaz.com/6-dos-donts-healthcare-social-media-marketing/

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141123074833-37618139-social-media-in-healthcare

http://blogs.aspect.com/improving-customer-engagement-in-healthcare-organizations/