You’d think that the healthcare industry would be at the very cutting-edge when it comes to information technology implementation. That isn’t always the case. One technology that developers are really looking to take advantage of in the healthcare space is blockchain. The technology behind cryptocurrency is being used to help patients better control their care. Let’s take a brief look now.
Decentralizing Health Data
The importance of health data cannot be understated. Known technically as electronic protected health information (ePHI), it covers patient data, insurance information, and other data that makes up an individual’s health care profile. Unfortunately, the rate at which technology is implemented is extremely slow. In fact, hospitals basically function the same way they have for decades. This is a combination of a lack of innovation and a reluctance to invest by health maintenance organizations that already have extremely high overhead.
Blockchain, an immutable and encrypted ledger technology, is changing this trend. Since each block (node) in a blockchain is secure and bound to actions taken in previous blocks, it can have some serious benefits when used to secure ePHI. Some of the reasons developers are looking to integrate blockchain technology include:
- Information is decentralized – The data on a blockchain is not owned by a healthcare organization, but is more of a ledger of an individual’s health profile.
- Data on the blockchain is encrypted – The data is secured and cannot be altered. If situations change with a patient, another node is created amending previous information, it isn’t changed.
- The blockchain itself is reliable – Once information is entered as a part of blockchain, it is on the chain in perpetuity. This makes it easy to refer to if there are questions about care or transfer of ePHI.
- The blockchain improves transparency – This provides patients the ability to track their own health information, rather than relying on insurers or providers to coordinate information if there are questions about it.
By integrating blockchain into an EHR (electronic health record) system, it in effect provides a level of consistency that has never been seen before in the healthcare industry. A blockchain-run EHR would keep healthcare organizations, or worse yet insurers, from essentially owning a patient’s ePHI. This would revolutionize the entire industry as it would be the basis for a patient information sharing marketplace. It would incentivize the free sharing of relevant patient data to help healthcare organizations provide better care, and get people the care they need as they would have access to all the information tied to a single patient. Some additional benefits would include:
- Blockchain nodes cannot be altered, and the chain is traceable. Patients will be able to send records to who they choose without the fear of corruption or mishandling.
- Blockchain’s encryption will keep all nodes (and information held within) secure until it is shared with the healthcare provider or insurer.
- Blockchain can incentivize healthy behavior as insurers and providers can set up benchmarks that patients could meet.
- Blockchain integration could lower healthcare and prescription costs as it would allow and incentivize the tracking of prescribed drugs, lowering supply chain costs.
Those are only a few benefits that blockchain can bring to healthcare. If you would like to learn more about blockchain or if you run a healthcare practice and would like to talk to one of our experts about this emerging technology, give us a call at 717-295-7630 today.