There are 26 different electronic medical records systems used in the city of Boston, each with its own language for representing and sharing data. Critical information is often scattered across multiple facilities, and sometimes it isn't accessible when it is needed most--a situation that plays out every day around the U.S., costing money and sometimes even lives. But it's also a problem that looks tailor-made for a blockchain to solve, says John Halamka, chief information officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Imagine that when a doctor sees a patient or writes a new prescription, the patient agrees to have a reference or "pointer" added to a blockchain--a decentralized digital ledger like the one underlying Bitcoin. Instead of payments, this blockchain would record critical medical information in a virtually incorruptible cryptographic database, maintained by a network of computers, that is accessible to anyone running the software (see "Why Bitcoin Could Be Much More Than a Currency").
Blockchain and Health IT: Algorithms, Privacy, and Data [PDF – 507 KB].A peer-to-peer network that enables parties to jointly store and analyze data with complete privacy that could empower precision medicine clinical trials and research. Blockchain technologies solutions can support many existing health care business processes, improve data integrity and enable at-scale interoperability for information exchange, patient tracking, identity assurance, and validation. Authors: Brodersen C, Kalis B, Mitchell E, Pupo E, Triscott A. Organization: Accenture LLP Blockchain Technologies: A Whitepaper Discussing how Claims Process can be Improved [PDF – 1 MB]. Smart contracts, Blockchain, and other technologies can be combined into a platform that enables drastic improvements to the claims process and improves the health care experience for all stakeholders. Author: Culver K. Organization: Unaffiliated Blockchain: Opportunities for Health Care [PDF – 787 KB].Presentation of an implementation framework and business case for using Blockchain as part of health information exchange to satisfy national health care objectives.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. The author is a Forbes contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer. For almost a decade, hospitals have been waiting for Electronic Health Records to usher in a bright and shiny new era of standardization and high quality health care. But while federal laws and incentive programs have made health care data more accessible, the vast majority of hospital systems still can't easily (or safely) share their data.
In the current tangle of incompatible records systems that typifies U.S. health care, incorrect information can creep in when patient data gets re-entered multiple times by doctors' offices, insurers and hospital staff. Big errors can seriously affect the quality of care that patients receive, small discrepancies can result in wrongful denials of insurance coverage, and errors of all types add to the system's cost. Blockchain, by contrast, puts patients, insurers and providers all on the same page. With a low-cost and decentralized-ledger approach to managing information, blockchain technology gives all of the parties in the provision of health care simultaneous access to a single body of strongly encrypted data, and it creates an audit trail each time data is changed, helping to ensure the integrity and authenticity of the information. Eventually, blockchain could be used to provide a secure and accurate medical history for every individual patient.
If you think you've got a bad case of the travel bug, get this: Dr. John Halamka travels 400,000 miles a year. Halamka is chief information officer at Harvard's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a professor at Harvard Medical School, and a practicing emergency physician. In a talk at Singularity University's Exponential Medicine last week, Halamka shared what he sees as the biggest healthcare problems the world is facing, and the most promising technological solutions from a systems perspective. "In traveling 400,000 miles you get to see lots of different cultures and lots of different people," he said. "And the problems are really the same all over the world. Maybe the cultural context is different or the infrastructure is different, but the problems are very similar."