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  • Lipscomb University - Kim Chaudoin

New collaboration to use blockchain technology to improve prescription care for underinsured patient

Lipscomb University’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences is partnering with Good Shepherd Pharmacy in Memphis, Tennessee, and the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis to develop a first-of-its-kind system to provide underinsured patients the medication they need through an innovative use of blockchain technology.

The goal of the collaboration is to develop a software platform that will create a blockchain network accessible by nonprofit pharmacies across the country to eliminate prescription waste and improve the lives of the most vulnerable patients. Lipscomb University’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences is a pioneer in the use of blockchain, integrating the technology with pharmacy and digital health care arenas.

The first application on the blockchain platform, RemediChain, allows individual patients to donate their unused oral chemotherapy to patients who would not otherwise afford them. Another application, ScriptRide, will coordinate the delivery of those prescriptions into the hands of underinsured patients.

Good Shepherd Pharmacy will be overseeing the process of receiving and redistributing the medication while Lipscomb University and the FedEx Institute of Technology will provide the resources and expertise necessary to build out the blockchain infrastructure. Blockchain technology will help track-and-trace medicines, ensuring that eligible patients get the medication, and will provide transparency around the process and will provide an auditable system of that activity.

“We recognized the potential of RemediChain for uninsured patients, and felt it aligned perfectly with the University’s core mission to integrate Christian faith and practice with academic excellence,” said Dr. Roger Davis, vice provost of health affairs at Lipscomb University.

Dr. Kevin Clauson, associate professor in Lipscomb’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, is a leading expert in blockchain technology in the health care arena.

“When Phil Baker, the CEO of Good Shepherd Pharmacy, contacted me with his interest in leveraging blockchain technology to put cancer medications in the hands of those who might otherwise go without, I knew I was onboard,” said Clauson. “I thought it was one of the most pragmatic uses I had seen for blockchain. It was also a great fit from a domain perspective as we had started exploring blockchain for drug supply management with our students in 2015.”

Baker discovered Lipscomb’s work in the blockchain space when gathering data and developing his idea.

“I knew that reclaiming medicine would be a good use for blockchain technology but needed a partner who truly understood how blockchain works,” said Dr. Phil Baker, CEO of Good Shepherd Pharmacy. “In my research, I found that Dr. Kevin Clauson and his team at Lipscomb were doing amazing work at the intersection of blockchain and pharmacy.”

“Lipscomb is the first college of pharmacy to recognize the potential of blockchain technology. Dr. Clauson was kind enough to listen to my idea, suggest improvements, and connect me with the people who could make it happen. I simply could not be more excited to partner with Lipscomb University and the FedEx Institute of Technology in this endeavor.”

Clauson said he is particularly excited about this partnership and its potential impact because it is the result of Baker’s commitment to making a difference and to serving others that ultimately led to this collaboration and opportunity. Baker championed a change in the legal system to cut waste and to allow better access to much-needed medications to the underinsured.

“This collaboration shows the power of what one person can do,” said Clauson. “People who had lost loved ones due to cancer were bringing Phil tens of thousands of dollars of cancer meds and asking him to get them to others it could help. And he had to tell him the law forbid him from doing so and that those life-saving medications had to be destroyed. It became obvious to him that the law needed to change. He worked tirelessly to change it so he could better help his patients — and he did just that. As a result we are at this point today ready to build on the work he started to continue the impact across the country.”

Baker will visit Lipscomb’s campus on Nov. 5 to share with student pharmacists insight into pharmacy practice from clinical, informatics, entrepreneurial and advocacy perspectives and will discuss his experiences with Good Shepherd Pharmacy.

Blockchain is a technology developed in 2008 by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamato that contains a secure history of data exchanges, utilizes a peer-to-peer network to time stamp and verify each exchange, and can be managed autonomously without a central authority. It is a technology that originated in the computer science field and has been adopted by other industries — particularly in the health care arena — as innovative uses have been developed.

This collaboration is the Lipscomb University College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences’s latest partnership involving advanced technology. Last year, the university announced partnerships with IBM Watson and with Hashed Health a company pioneering the use of blockchain technology, the secure distributed ledger technology behind bitcoin.

In April 2017, Lipscomb University’s College of Pharmacy became the first college of pharmacy in the nation to provide students full access to IBM WatsonTM Analytics and trainings as part of its curriculum in an effort led by Dr. Beth Breeden, associate professor in Lipscomb’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences . These resources provide student pharmacists an in-depth understanding of data and business analytics before they enter the health care workforce.

Lipscomb followed up its partnership with IBM in June with a new membership in the Hashed Health Consortium, a group of organizations led by Nashville-based Hashed Health devoted to leveraging blockchain and distributed ledger technologies to transform the health care industry. Lipscomb was the first academic institution to join the consortium.

Membership has allowed Lipscomb faculty and students to partner with innovative companies to develop internships or other experiential learning, research and entrepreneurial opportunities involving blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies

These partnerships have already paved the way for students to engage in a number of software development projects, database mining projects and other real-world applications that could change the way health care is provided now in the future.

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