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Blockchain Technology and Medical Records
Healthcare: 2017’s most hotly contest debate. While the discussion has largely been within the insurance industry and the repeal of Obamacare–also known as the ACA–other issues have become glaringly obvious. Costs surrounding healthcare have soared, owing to a variety of factors. Without question, though, issues existed prior to the adoption of Obamacare.
The digital age presents further challenges in the healthcare industry. Navigating the technological healthcare waters is daunting, to say the absolute least. As many doctors offices, hospitals, and specialists move towards the digitization of medical records, huge issues have begun to arise. Even if a patient participates in the digitization of her medical records, because there’s no standard network, she may not always be able to easily track down her own information. This ultimately leads many feeling like they do not have control of their own medical records.
Unfortunately, a slew of recent assaults on corporations housing containing personal data have occurred. A requirement to fix the healthcare industry exists–and fast. In order to address these complex problems, medical professionals and policymakers alike have turned towards blockchain technology.
The Individual and Healthcare
A blockchain is a distributed ledger, known as a peer-to-peer (P2P) or decentralized network (read more about this network here). A centralized network on the other hand, stores data in a local hub, in which all data passes through a single point 2008 brought the advent of bitcoin. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency. Bitcoin’s code actually contained the code for blockchain technology itself. It quickly became apparent blockchain had capabilities outside those financially-tied ones. The medical field, is one of them, and offers a hugely promising application of the technology.
As the industry evolves, professionals and administrators continually search for solutions regarding ever-growing demands. Efforts are oftentimes abandoned completely, but have been made to digitize the mountains of patient charts and paperwork. It can be a truly overwhelming process, with poor outcomes. This results in a situation where patients do not have control over their own medical records. Instead of easily accessing them online, they need to jump through hoops to get information about their own body.
Attempts to obtain these records can feel downright discouraging. Plus, hard copies of records are often exceedingly expensive. New providers who search for these records face immense difficulties. There are countless anecdotes of individuals getting hurt or sick, both abroad and domestically, left without access to their medical records. Of course, it’s totally impractical to ship the patient back to their own doctors. So many times, local doctors must wait hours pass before proceeding. It would be dangerous to move forward because they do not have any required medical records.
Digital Identity in Healthcare
Your digital identity is your information online. More often than not, people associate it with social media like Facebook or Twitter, but it encompasses all of the data of an online user. Your digital identity is extremely important, so ensuring your information secure is a requirement. (Read about Digital Identity with the new web here).
Based on the way they’re built, centralized systems–most online platforms operate on a centralized platform–are very easy to hack. (Learn more centralized vs decentralized platforms here.) Thus, a P2P or decentralized platform, solves many security issues. Blockchain technology lives on a decentralized platform. Once registered on the blockchain, it’s there forever.
Since many medical offices and hospitals have made attempts to digitize health records, but failed in the process, blockchain technology is a way to remedy this problem. Once recorded on the ledger, the information is permanent. Hacking is exponentially more difficult on P2P networks because of the way they’re inherently built. By registering medical records on a blockchain, it automatically reduces the risk associated with the security (or lack thereof) and encryption of centralized platforms. Because these records are a part of your digital identity, it’s of the utmost importance to secure them.
Barriers to Entry
Thanks to the difficulties with obtaining medical records, patients feel as if they are not in control of their own information or digital identity. Blockchain looks to correct this by allowing patients to access to their records anytime, any place. Once this information is registered on blockchain, it can be accessed through multiple channels. This drastically reduces the time between admittance and treatment.
Recording medical records on the blockchain absolutely addresses the ease of access issue, but it also provides an additional benefit: reduction in overall costs. For years, healthcare costs have spiraled out of control. Administrative costs associated with the digitization, tracking, and updating of medical records constantly grows. Blockchain technology has the potential to cut or even eliminate certain administrative costs, leading to more affordable and accessible healthcare.
Blockchain technology clearly has the ability to remedy scores of issues within the healthcare industry. Unfortunately, many hospitals and doctor’s offices are unaware of the technology itself, or aren’t ready to actually implement it. Blockchain technology offers a lot of solutions to existing problems. Right now, though, it’s about getting information into the hands of the right industry influencers. Every day, blockchain technology expands in ways we couldn’t even imagine. Every day, blockchain technology finds a new way to make our lives more secure.
If you would like to read more about blockchain impacts on the healthcare industry, you can check out our page for this sector!