Blockchain in Healthcare – How Blockchain Technology Can Impact Medicine, EHR and More

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Blockchain in Healthcare: How Blockchain Technology Can Impact Medicine

Blockchain in Healthcare - How Blockchain Technology Can Impact Medicine, EHR and More

Blockchain technology is most simply defined as a decentralized, distributed ledger that records the provenance of a digital asset. By inherent design, the data on a blockchain is unable to be modified, which makes it a legitimate disruptor for industries like payments, cybersecurity and healthcare.

Blockchain is a decentralized, digital ledger system that uses encryption to share information or transactions across a network of computers. Once verified, each “block” of new information is linked to the existing block, creating a chain of secure data that a person can access anytime, anywhere. 

One of the technologies that Med-Challenger keeps an eye on is the use of blockchain for electronic healthcare records, for academic records, and certifications. Blockchains are effectively secure, distributed databases, with encryption-enforced privacy, and un-hackable, even with quantum computers on the horizon.

We came across an article written by Jimmy Nguyen, a leading Bitcoin advocate and expert on blockchain technology.  The article focuses on the transportability of medical information, access control, and secure methods of recording consumer interactions using blockchain technology, but here's the basic gist of how blockchain technology can help healthcare data security and access - and ultimately patient care.

The Problem

Contemporary healthcare information systems are exceptionally fragmented. While growing volumes of personal healthcare data are being created by a plethora of sources – from physicians to pharmacies, laboratories to hospitals, even our mobile phones and smart devices – the information remain, in almost every case, isolated within data silos – segregated and inaccessible from outside the confines of closed and proprietary systems. Not only is this inefficient, but it restricts the ability of a healthcare provider to operate with the most complete set of patient information available in real-time in order to deliver optimal health outcomes.

The Idea

A single global blockchain can serve as the basis for a universal global electronic health record, offering a secure digital environment, capable of storing and managing patient information in a verifiable manner, publicly accessible in real-time by anyone in the healthcare service provider chain (if authorized by the patient). Each new item of information could be integrated to provide an up-to-date, comprehensive picture of patient health, enabling physicians, pharmacies and other providers to provide better health care guidance to patients. And by using the blockchain, we can iterate and innovate beyond the limitations of existing systems by leveraging its unique features. The same protections applied to prevent the double-spending of digital currency could be used to prevent double-filling of pharmaceutical prescriptions, while blockchain private keys could be implemented as a way to authenticate identity and validate insurance coverage.

The Outcome

A blockchain-based records system would empower patients to retain full control over their data, choosing when, and to whom, to grant permission to access their information. That could be giving permission to a healthcare provider in a physician-patient setting or could extend to commercial uses – authorizing access to your data by a pharmaceutical manufacturer conducting clinical research in exchange for you receiving micropayments of digital currency.

Putting the patient in control would also make switching between healthcare providers a far simpler process than presently, while ensuring that any information provided is complete and verifiably accurate – a process that could be applied to a variety of scenarios.

Applications

In a related fashion, blockchain can solve edge cases. Navigating the healthcare system, or any provision system, can be trying for knowledgeable consumers. Here is an example of how a medical healthcare blockchain can be used to provide services to the homeless or transient populations: Blockchain as ‘TechQuity’: How Innovative Tech Solutions Have the Power to Help the Homeless

For people experiencing homelessness, missing proof of identity can be a major barrier to receiving critical services, from housing to food assistance to health care. Physical documents such as driver’s licenses are highly susceptible to loss, theft or damage.

Essentially, blockchain can be used to keep important health care information secure and portable.

“Health care institutions and social services are so fragmented and siloed they’re unable to accurately collect, share or verify basic identity information about a person experiencing homelessness,” said Tim Mercer, M.D., MPH, director of the Global Health Program in the Department of Population Health at Dell Med and co-author of a new commentary published in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved. “This puts the burden on the most underserved people in our communities to navigate complex bureaucracies, just to prove their identities.”

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