Blockchain Technology is Advancing Health Technology
Healthcare is a hot-button issue regardless of where you live. As a result you’d think that the industry would be one of the first to implement new information technology. Unfortunately, the healthcare industry has sometimes lagged behind other industries on the deployment of new IT tools. One technology that is being used in the development of new IT tools for healthcare is blockchain. Let’s discuss how blockchain technology is being utilized and how it can change the face of patient care going forward.
The Decentralization of Electronic Protected Health Information
Healthcare data is one of the most private sets of information out there. Known colloquially as electronic protected health information (ePHI), it covers patient data, information shared with insurers, and any other data that has to do with an individual’s health record. Unfortunately, many of the same processes that have been used for decades remain, even with major advances in technology and mandates handed down directly from governments. The lack of innovation is mostly a result of a reluctance by healthcare providers to invest in the technology and risk inefficiencies caused by the implementation of new technology.
As tools get smarter, however, healthcare administrators have started to acknowledge just how much value this technology can have for their organizations’ patients. Blockchain is one technology that is on the precipice of changing healthcare forever. It is beginning to be integrated into record-keeping solutions that will give people more control over their health data, and provide the kind of privacy that should be required when dealing with their sensitive information.
Blockchain is an immutable and encrypted ledger technology that provides some of the following benefits:
- 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. Any changes need to be created in a new block. Any piece of information about an individual’s health can be identified by looking back over the blockchain.
- The blockchain improves transparency - Providing 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, can give people control over their ePHI and quickly work to provide doctors and nurses useful information they’ll need to provide the best care possible.
The technology that blockchain is most identified with is called an Electronic Health Record (EHR) or Electronic Medical Record (EMR). By integrating blockchain technology into these systems, individuals will have more control over their health information. As it stands, healthcare organizations and insurance companies have a monopoly over this information, leaving the patient relatively in the dark about the management of their own individual care. It’s not overstating one iota to consider blockchain technology a major step forward in healthcare reporting.
Integrating blockchain also incentivizes healthcare organizations to provide better care, as there would be a great deal more transparency. Some other benefits of blockchain in healthcare 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.
What do you think? Would you like to have more control over your health records, and your ability to secure and share that information with your doctors and healthcare providers? Do you think that your healthcare provider does enough to keep your health information secure? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.