Healthcare has always been an interesting policy issue that can determine political dynamics globally. Yet,healthcare is one sector that has been constantly stuck is a state of slower advancements, particularly in the realm of healthcare information and medical records technologies. This lack of advancement, ultimately affects the quality and cost-effectiveness of healthcare being accorded to millions of individuals in different parts of the globe.
CHALLENGES OF MAINTAINING ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORDS
The concept of Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) dates back to the 1960s, when it was first adopted by a doctor in a clinical practice. Over the decades, EMRs – a digital version of medical records – have been adopted by a large number of medical centers and facilities. Healthcare systems across the globe today generate terabytes of data on a daily basis, and the annual cost of maintaining digitized records runs into the millions of dollars. However, despite their massive scale, these systems are not perfect, as they operate as individual on-site repositories and not in tandem with one another. This leads to major inefficiencies, especially if patients have to transition from one healthcare provider to another. This also leads to the creation of highly centralized healthcare data that is at risk of security breaches and vulnerable to hacker attacks.
The blockchain, the foundation of Bitcoin, is now being heralded as an elixir than can potentially transform global healthcare systems and their record keeping practices. The blockchain serves as a data structure that can be signed and time-stamped with the help of a private key to rule out tampering. As a digital record keeping system, the blockchain is now viewed as a more scalable, secure and tamper-proof alternative to current healthcare record keeping practices.
When applied to healthcare, the blockchain would facilitate the decentralization of health data without jeopardizing the security of sensitive information. This decentralization would also take away the financial burden of maintaining digital records, which runs into the millions of dollars, away from hospitals and medical centers.
The biggest advantage of using blockchain technology to digitize healthcare information would be putting more control in the hand of the patients. The multi-signature feature will not only allow patients to have unrestrained access to their medical data but also provide them with the authority to decide which healthcare providers they’d like to share this information with.
BTC Manager, Coindesk, Becker Hospital Review, Healthcare Informatics