Created in 2008 by pseudonym (person or group) Satoshi Nakamoto, blockchain is a revolutionary ledger of data entry that is slowly making its way into many fields.
Originally created for Bitcoin transactions, blockchain technology is a database shared across a secure network of users. Traditionally, healthcare databases have existed around one central hub, with branches of authorized users who have access as well as the ability to interact and change patient data. This has lead to a wealth of corrupted data that is difficult to track, access, and analyze. It has created problems in areas including claims processing, data accuracy, and patient ownership of their personal health information. Many healthcare professionals are turning to blockchain technology as a possible solution to these problems. Blockchain in healthcare is a relatively new concept that has yet to be perfected, but could positively impact the quality of data moving forward.
Here are three positive impacts of blockchain in healthcare:
1) Efficiency and Security
While professionals are still perfecting the uses of Blockchain in healthcare, there is a general consensus that this technology could greatly improve efficiencies when it comes to accessing information across multiple approved platforms. For Electronic Health Records with cloud-based storage, Blockchain is understood to be the tool that manages access. Cloud-based storage is being adopted by many providers and specialties as a more accessible and secure way to keep records. In the cloud, providers can access patient data from multiple locations or devices as long as they have a username and password. The cloud keeps data safe from any computer crashes or failure in technology that might cause that information to be lost. Blockchain in healthcare offers an added layer of security for cloud-based storage as it accurately tracks changes and makes it more difficult for someone to secretly access data or change it. With Blockchain in health care, providers can still efficiently access their data in the cloud, but also improve the security of their data.
The second impact of Blockchain in healthcare is its effect on interoperability. Many times, when a record is created, it is isolated to the software where it was created and even when it is shared with another provider, there is no way for that data to remain uniform across every platform. Blockchain in healthcare offers a solution for interoperability that not only simplifies the sharing of data across approved platforms but improves the accuracy of that data with each user. Changes are tracked and approved by each user so that each provider who is approved to look at that data can see a comprehensive medical history and enable them to make informed clinical decisions.
3) Patient Access
Blockchain in healthcare is more than added security and information access for the provider, but also for the patient. Blockchain in healthcare offers patients added access and control of their personal health information. This technology is traceable, minimizing the risk of deleted data as well as false claims of medication or health history. Patient’s can access their data, update it, and access a secure history of their medical information. Blockchain in healthcare simplifies how wrong information is identified and updated. Patient’s can take ownership of their medical records by eliminating a medical provider’s centralized control of their information. Blockchain in healthcare impacts a patient’s ownership of their records as well as their outcomes, security, and engagement.
Obstacles of Blockchain in Healthcare:
1) Identifying Authorized Users
One major obstacle that is preventing Blockchain from becoming the way providers track and access data is the identification of authorized users. Figuring out who can access what information can be difficult depending on the situation.
2) Concerns of the Single Ledger Model
By introducing a single ledger model of data tracking, sensitive patient information might be available to too many users across the country. Professionals have yet to identify how to keep this sensitive information more secure while using Blockchain in healthcare.
While there are many questions still circulating when it comes to Blockchain in healthcare, the positive impacts this technology could have is still driving many healthcare professionals to search for the perfect way to implement it. Only time will tell if Blockchain technology will become the solution for interoperability, security, and access to data in the healthcare community.