Quote of the Week 

“Remember always that you have not only the right to be an individual, you have the obligation to be one. You cannot make any useful contributions in life unless you do that.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Technical Corner

I am on vacation this week; however, our allocations remain unchanged because the trend is still going down.

Tom’s Thoughts – Blockchain and Healthcare

We all have heard the stories of how complicated, unsecure, and wasteful our health care system is.  So, when I read the following article entitled “This Is Why Blockchain Will Transform Healthcare” by Bernard Marr in the November 29, 2017 issue of Forbes Magazine I was excited and hope you will be also.  Enjoy.

“The blockchain revolution has made its way to the healthcare industry, and it’s only the beginning of what’s possible. Healthcare Rallies for Blockchain, a study from IBM, found that 16% of surveyed healthcare executives had solid plans to implement a commercial blockchain solution this year (2017), while 56% expected to by 2020. Healthcare companies, tech innovators and the rest of the healthcare industry are grappling with what’s possible now and what blockchain could solve in the future.

The overall vision for blockchain to disrupt healthcare in the future would be to solve many issues that plague the industry today to create a common database of health information that doctors and providers could access no matter what electronic medical system they used, higher security and privacy, less admin time for doctors so there’s more time to spend on patient care, and even better sharing of research results to facilitate new drug and treatment therapies for disease.

What is blockchain?

While blockchain principles were first applied in the financial world as the technology that allowed Bitcoin to operate, it has applications in many industries including healthcare. Blockchains are distributed systems that log transaction records on linked blocks and store them on an encrypted digital ledger. There is no one central administrator, but it has unprecedented security benefits because records are spread across a network of replicated databases that are always in sync. Users can only update the block they have access to, and those updates get replicated across the network. All entries are time and date stamped.

What are potential uses of blockchains in healthcare?

Although there are some incredibly exciting ways blockchains can enhance healthcare operations, it won’t be a cure-all for the industry today, but it would certainly be a step in the right direction. The healthcare industry is drowning in data—clinical trials, patient medical records, complex billing, medical research and more. Adoption and implementation of blockchains will be an evolution over time as blockchains applications are vetted and adopted as well as the industry coming together to determine collaboration and governance issues. As it always is with new technology, the full possibilities of what may transpire in the future is unknown at this time. However, as quoted in a Wired article, “Now is probably the right time in our history to take a fresh approach to data sharing in health care,” says John Halamka, chief information officer at Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Here are the most likely applications:

Medical Data Management

MedRec, one prototype using blockchains, is intended to improve electronic medical records and allow patients’ records to be accessed securely by any provider who needs it solving the waste of time, money and duplication in procedures, confusion and sometimes even life-threatening issue of records being distributed across many different facilities and providers. The goal with MedRec is to give patients and their providers one-stop access to their entire medical history across all providers they have ever seen. (Bold type added by me) Additionally, if patients wish to grant access to their personal medical records to researchers, their data would be provided anonymously to be used in research which could make medical breakthroughs possible faster than they are now. This pioneer in the field shows the potential for how dramatically things could change in healthcare by deploying blockchains.

Drug Development and Supply Chain Integrity

Not only could blockchains facilitate new drug development by making patient results more widely accessible (if the patients give their permission), it could help reduce the counterfeit drug implications that currently cost pharmaceutical companies an estimated $200 billion in losses annually.

Claims and Billing Management

Medicare fraud caused more than $30 million in losses in the United States in 2016, and blockchain-based systems could help minimize it. (Bold type added by me.)  In addition, it could reduce admin costs for billing by eliminating the need for intermediaries with automated activities and more efficient processing.

Medical Research                                                                                             

Centralizing the results of clinical trials and patient outcomes for new treatment protocols can improve care and patient outcomes. Currently, with all the diverse and disconnected systems in play, there is no way for a human to process all the data that is generated and recorded in disparate systems for future treatment possibilities. Blockchains could provide the access to make medical innovation quicker. (Bold type added by me)

Data Security

Between 2015-2016, 140 million patient records were breached according to Protenus Breach Barometer report. With the growth of connected devices and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), existing health IT architecture is struggling to keep systems secure. Blockchain solutions have the potential to be the infrastructure that is needed to keep health data private and secure while reaping the benefits of connected medical devices. (Bold type added by me)

Although blockchain technology is currently changing the healthcare industry, keep in mind this is a marathon, not a sprint. Healthcare organizations and entities are testing and vetting how blockchains can better support their operations while future applications will inevitably be discovered along the way. It will be a fascinating process to watch.

By the Numbers

ANOTHER BILL TO PAY – A 65-year old couple retiring in 2018 will need an estimated $280,000 (present value amount stated in 2018 dollars) to pay out-of-pocket health care costs during the couple’s retirement years. The $280,000 figure assumes the couple qualifies for Medicare but does not require nursing home care. This annual forecast has risen from $225,000 in 2008 (source: Fidelity). – Michael A. Higley, BTN 04-30-2018

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These are the opinions of Larry Lof and Stephanie Mayoral and not necessarily those of Cambridge, are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed or acted upon as individualized investment advice. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Due to our compliance review process, delayed dissemination of this commentary occurs. The S&P 500 is an index of stocks compiled by Standard & Poor’s, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. The index includes a representative sample of 500 leading companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy. Indices mentioned are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. Technical analysis represents an observation of past performance and trend, and past performance and trend are no guarantee of future performance, price, or trend. The price movements within capital markets cannot be guaranteed and always remain uncertain. The allocation discussed herein is not designed based on the individual needs of any one specific client or investor. In other words, it is not a customized strategy designed on the specific financial circumstances of the client. Please consult an advisor to discuss your individual situation before making any investments decision. Investing in securities involves risk of loss. Further, depending on the different types of investments, there may be varying degrees of risk including loss of original principal.

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