Blockchain technology is becoming a great value player in manufacturing, finance, and healthcare industries after its origin in the virtual bitcoin stream. It already started showing its exciting potential for new, innovative use cases in healthcare such as handling sensitive health data, matching patient records, exchanging health records, and so on. Find below a brief explanation of how blockchain technology is revolutionizing the handling of electronic health records (EHRs).
The biggest challenge in handling EHRs, particularly with the growing number of stakeholders, is caring about how multiple stakeholders can share, edit, and view patients’ medical data while still maintaining an up-to-date and authoritative record of medications, services rendered, and diagnoses. Blockchain technology handles this challenge by using time stamping ability to authenticate changes to a health record, even if more than one user has permission to modify the record.
As EHRs were never designed to be managed for life time and by multiple stakeholders, patients normally have their medical data scattered across various providers and stakeholders. Blockchain technology now allows patients to authorize new members of their private EHR stakeholders, approve health record modifications, and govern sharing this data between their multiple providers. Whenever a specific record is modified by either patient or provider, the stakeholder who receives this new information gets a notification automatically and can verify the record that was proposed before rejecting or accepting the data. This way, all stakeholders and providers are always informed and involved in the evolution of respective health records.
Besides ensuring clear data ownership, accountability and integrity of data, Blockchain also addresses a number critical use cases such as provider-sided user authentication, patient consent, patient identification, and erroneous malpractice claims. In addition, Blockchain could stop staff members who are unauthorized from accessing patient records outside of their purview, reduce improper billing, and even address issues such as fake drugs and inappropriate prescribing.
Blockchain can securely hold the consent statements information, which patients in general add at any point in their health care journey. Then, healthcare professionals can act upon those directives, and the systems that they use can interpret them as access control decisions. Blockchain can eliminate the need for a designated health information exchange (HIE) or a private network established between local hospitals for information exchange. This is due to the decentralized nature of Blockchain that would allow approved participants to join an exchange community without the need for data exchange channels between stakeholders.
Smart contracts developed on Blockchain facilitates providers and payers to share quality data that is required to fuel value-based reimbursements. It enables a machine-to-machine network for faster execution of transactions and communication. It allows the system to send patient invoices for processing, and have them processed immediately avoiding delays that normally caused through intermediate channels. Blockchain technology simplifies the order management procedures in medical supplies. It ensures a very straightforward approach and eliminates the involvement of middleman who may slow down the whole order process. This ability is highly valuable and effective during emergency situations where medical supplies must be carried out with absolutely no delay.
The National Quality Forum believes that blockchain would help in developing more sophisticated patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) that include indicators of patient experiences, pain levels, lifestyle issues, and chronic disease management capabilities. Currently healthcare industry sees these PROMs as a less priority topic, however, these are essential for the transformation of illness management mindset to wellness-lifestyle mindset in healthcare industry, and Blockchain plays an important role here. However, PROMs can accurately indicate patient’s perspectives only if patients use an instrument that is psychometrically validated and can capture the accurate details of a disease and the corresponding treatment.
Blockchain technology enhances EHRs ability in such a way that data can be appended or modified only through the consensus of all stakeholders involved. Blockchains support universal identifiers for the data entered in an EHR, which is then available to other authorized healthcare providers and care team members. Patients can monitor their own health information, approve, deny or share changes to their data with high level of privacy and engagement. Even researchers can benefit from better data integrity and reliability. Payers will have reduced claim processing and administrative costs, fewer errors and frauds, and better data reconciliation.
Let us imagine a simple situation where patient, James met with an accident. During the trauma care, John notices that his primary care doctor, Dr. Alex is unavailable, so he gave his emergency room doctor, Dr. Edmond, access to her EHR by adding him as a permissioned user. Then, in the system, blockchain records this change in “permissioning” and enables Dr.Edmond to view John’s EHR temporarily, and append information to it without changing the original EHR. John can authorize the same permissioning to his wearable device, if that information is useful to Dr. Edmond. At the end of a predetermined window, Dr. Edmond’s access to the EHR would close. John’s primary care doctor, Dr. Alex, then would have a complete and verified record of all events the next time he speaks with John.
By and large, blockchain eases out the apprehensions and challenges of bringing valuable, personal healthcare data into the digital world with a strong emphasis on integrity, permission, and decentralization of data