11 June, 2018
Blockchain technology can be used in healthcare for the same benefits that it provides in other sectors: to increase security, privacy, and efficiency while giving more control to the individual. When it comes to health information exchanges (HIEs) in particular, there are some clear improvements that blockchain can bring about.
In healthcare, HIEs facilitate the mobilization of patient information across different organizations, regions, and hospital systems. It’s a cumbersome process, however, and there’s no way to quickly and reliably verify user information when discrepancies come up.
One of the goals of using blockchain in HIEs is to encourage interoperability. Blockchain’s secure and immutable framework provides an ideal model to “connect fragmented systems to generate insights and to better assess the value of care.” The use of blockchain would secure data in a way that is HIPAA-compliant and take advantage of smart contracts for the verification of updates.
Having a single blockchain-based platform for medical records would make patient files more comprehensive and easily accessible for health professionals—and according to Deloitte, could even support “better health outcomes for patients.” In addition to more accurate health records from doctor to doctor, patients would enjoy the benefit of having control over their health histories and biometric data points.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is hoping that blockchain-based solutions will provide secure network infrastructure, proof of identity for patients and providers, and consistent access to patients’ health records.
Currently, the blockchain-based solutions proposed are still in research and development stages. According to Deloitte, “Several technical, organizational, and behavioral economics challenges must be addressed before a health care blockchain can be adopted by organizations nationwide.”
Other companies around the U.S. are also actively looking at the solutions and opportunities provided by blockchain for the healthcare sector. Per IBM, about 16 percent of payers and providers are ready to “adopt, implement and commercialize blockchain.” It seems clear that blockchain is making its way toward healthcare and (we hope) eventually to a better informed and healthier population as well.