The term blockchain refers to a record of linked transactions. Each transaction forms one block in the chain. The chain is held together by hashes or cryptographic signatures. These signatures are securely stored in shared ledgers that are linked by a series of processes. One of the main advantages of blockchain technology is that it is resistant to tampering.
This can be an advantage to healthcare because it boosts the security of patients’ electronic medical records. Furthermore, it also permits easy authentication of patients and practitioners and enables the use of a uniform means of accessing EHR.
The Application of Blockchain Technology in Healthcare
Blockchain technology can be implemented in healthcare in the following areas:
- Securing patient data: This is currently the most popular application for blockchain in healthcare. This is understandable considering the number of patient medical record data breached that occurred over the last decade. During such data breaches, the perpetrators gained access to patients’ banking and credit card information and genomic testing records.
Blockchain’s advantage in the security department is that it can maintain an unbreachable log of patient data. It can be used to conceal the identity of the patients whose medical information is stored while allowing healthcare providers to share the data safely.
- Eliminating costly errors: When patient information is shared between medical professionals, miscommunications can be expensive. When patient data is blockchain-based, it reduces the risk of mistakes and prevents delays with patient care.
The decentralization of blockchain-based information lends itself to easy access and sharing. This means that physicians, specialists, hospitals, and pharmacists can safely share the data, resulting in a faster diagnosis and more efficient treatment plan.
- Improving the pharmaceutical supply chain: By replacing the traditional pharmaceutical supply chain system with blockchain technology, counterfeit medical products could be eliminated from the market.
Blockchain technology would allow transparency and security within this sector, ensuring that drug companies wishing to register their products must be considered trustworthy.
Once a pharmaceutical company is authorized to register their products on the blockchain, they can record all their data on the medication or devices. Because each block of data on the blockchain is timestamped, it is unalterable.
- Managing healthcare data: It doesn’t matter how efficient your EHR system is. No system is so efficient that it keeps all of each patient’s data in one place. Even if there was, because different practices and other medical facilities use different information storage systems, many of them are incompatible, making data sharing problematic. The use of blockchain technology for healthcare record management can eliminate this incompatibility and tidy up data storage.
- Protecting patient data: Regardless of how many different medical facilities patients visit during their lifetime, blockchains enable patient data stored in a single place. Not only does this allow patients to monitor and control their information, but it also provides optimal security.
The data cannot be hacked, altered, or infected by ransomware. Furthermore, patients would have complete control over who they share their information with. They could also get compensated if they chose to share their health information with organizations for research purposes.
Challenges with Blockchain Technology in Healthcare
At first glance, blockchain technology seems to be the ultimate solution for some of the most severe healthcare industry problems. But a deeper look reveals that blockchain does not come without its challenges. These include:
- Reluctance to change: Despite the increasing popularity of EHR, many medical practitioners are still using paper. Making the transition can seem overwhelming. But the technology is available, and it is user-friendly.
- Reluctance to share: There is a marked reluctance for insurance providers and some medical facilities to share information. This is particularly noticeable with hospitals. They tend to keep cost information to themselves as a competitive advantage to avoid getting different patients’ rates.
- Insufficient governmental focus: Any change within the American healthcare system is a trigger for intense debate. An across-the-board change in the way technology is used in healthcare would require a direction from the HHSA, which tends to shift depending on the presidential focus. It may need longer than an eight-year term to make the transition.
- Insufficient centrality: Because healthcare is distributed, there’s no one entity to take the lead and encourage others to follow. However, there the influential College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). In 2020, CHIME put forward a case for a national patient identifier (NPI). If it were implemented, this would have far-reaching results. For example, the same patient who visited two or more doctors or facilities would always have the correct medical record pulled when needed.
The Promise of Blockchain in Healthcare Today
Over the past decade, medicine has seen many innovative developments, such as new immunotherapies for cancer, stem cell research, and robotic surgery. Perhaps it’s time that the use of technology in healthcare information caught up with this trend. The goal would be to enable all aspects of the industry to be synchronized and stored in one secure place.
A blockchain system could make this happen. Blockchains may have become an integral part of patients’ and healthcare organizations’ data management and supply chain systems by the end of it.
How PrognoCIS Can Help Your Medical Facility
You can prepare your healthcare facility for the possibility of blockchain technology by switching from paper documentation to electronic record keeping. If you are interested in finding out more, our team at PrognoCIS can answer all your questions.
Our cloud-based and software solutions can streamline your workflows. We have a wide range of EHR interoperability and maintenance solutions, telemedicine, electronic medical billing, and EHR productivity. Our platforms offer unique features, including practice management, telemedicine, revenue cycle management, telemedicine, patient portal, and e-prescriptions.