The building block(chain) of healthcare’s future?

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | July 26, 2019
Health IT
From the July 2019 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

With a decentralized system, controlled by the patient and/or providers, sharing could be simplified and streamlined, while keeping control in the patient or provider’s hands, whether it’s an exchange of EHR text information, or imaging, or any other relevant information. A peer-to-peer transaction would create this improved flow of the data with greater patient control.

Siegel says in addition to EHR information and medical imaging, blockchain could be used for things such as pre-authorization, asset ownership, the credentialing process, voting within medical societies and even sharing of data for machine learning purposes. The best way for this to work is to have multiple entities contributing to the robustness of the data and that future may be right around the corner.

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“As time goes on, more and more people seem to be convinced that blockchain will be an emergent technology representing a market in the tens of billions of dollars as a better mechanism to be able to safeguard and secure data,” he says.

Before this can happen, Siegel says there will need to be significant reengineering done to existing imaging and other information systems in order to allow them to support a blockchain mechanism. There’s also the issue of selecting which blockchain to go with to allow highest efficiency and greatest control by patients, safety, and security.

At this moment, healthcare is very early in its implementation of blockchain, with no definitive map forward on a large scale. A literature search for blockchain in radiology or medical imaging will currently return very little. So there is still extensive work needed to be able to address existing protocols that enable image sharing, such as the IHE cross document sharing for imaging protocol.

It’s already been explained how patients could win if the technology enables them to control their own records better. Providers could win via decreased costs, as inefficiencies decrease as silos of data are better-exchanged. On the opposite side of that coin are third-parties that provide centralized solutions, particularly companies that use centralized solutions to give patients access to their data.

The other winner would be the company providing the mechanism for decentralized transactions. “That might be a company that specializes in healthcare blockchain, or medical imaging or transactional blockchain. Then, each one of the systems would essentially utilize that software as a service to exchange and access the images and other healthcare data,” Siegel explains.

A familiar explanation of how that would work is to think of Napster, the music peer-to-peer exchange of the aughts. The data wasn’t stored with Napster, Napster instead provided the software as a service to create a portal to facilitate that peer-to-peer sharing of information between users. Ideally, healthcare could utilize blockchain technologies to allow this peer to peer sharing, hopefully minus the extensive lawsuits.

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