Jon Purizhansky from Buffalo, NY says that current electronic medical records (EMR) systems are a mess in the United States. If a patient visits a doctor, there is no efficient way for the doctor to obtain transparency into this patient’s medical history. For example, when you go visit your primary care doctor, unless you allow him to obtain your medical records from all the other doctors you have visited, there is no way for your primary to understand what issues you have had before, particularly if you don’t remember. This creates serious inefficiencies and results in lower-quality care for all US patients. Additionally, if the data cannot be integrated into existing systems, doctors are unable to take full advantage of innovations in health data to make the best decisions about a patient’s health.
However, Jon Purizhansky from Buffalo, NY says that applying blockchain technology to EMR could fix the problem. Blockchain is a database that leverages cloud storage infrastructure to maintain a secure list of data records or transactions. Smart contracts within the blockchain platform allow logic to be programmed into the blockchain and executed when a transaction is made.
With respect to the EMR system, blockchain would create the ability to upload, store, and transfer files securely and cost-effectively. Rather than requiring health data to be stored in a centralized database, blockchain utilizes secure cloud technologies enabling data to be seamlessly shared and accessed from multiple sources. For example, during annual check-ups, physicians could review data synced from apps and wearable devices like the Apple Watch or Fitbit, instead of relying on patients to accurately, and honestly, divulge their health and exercise habits. In more urgent situations, a doctor may access blockchain-sourced data to determine whether the patient is allergic to certain medicines, or gather other critical information necessary for treatment.
Despite the efficiencies, blockchain provides, the concerns for maintaining the integrity of healthcare data is legitimate. In the first half of 2017, there were 233 health data breaches, affecting more than 3 million people, reported in the United States. Over 41 percent of the breaches were insider-caused. However, the services provided by blockchain help assuage the anxieties of bringing valuable, personal healthcare data into the digital world. Blockchain offers particularly strong benefits in three areas: integrity, permission, and decentralization. Blockchain ensures the information on the chain is verified by requiring users to provide a signature and time-stamp with a private key to access the data.
Blockchain can trace successful, or attempted, hacks and falsified records to an exact user to mitigate data breaches and insurance fraud. Blockchain maintains a permanent ledger, making it much more difficult for records to be lost or misplaced. Instead of relying on photocopies from their doctor’s office or third-party provider, patients have control over their data. Blockchain uses the logic that powers smart contracts, allowing users to give permissions, and control with whom their data is shared. The logic built into blockchain allows patients to have the best of both worlds, providing access to doctors when they need it, while simultaneously protecting data from unauthorized users. It’s important to note that Blockchain does not require data to be centrally maintained. Healthcare information can be stored in cloud databases and devices around the globe, ultimately providing patients with the power to control and share their data.
By removing the requirement for doctors, hospitals, and other care providers to be stored into a single health data system, patients are empowered to decide when, how, and to what extent their information may be shared with those who provide care. Private, public, and government agencies are all looking towards the potential uses and innovations for blockchain. Nevertheless, despite the fact that the theory on how to integrate blockchain with the EMR is clear, a systemic efficient solution has not yet been created.
If a single blockchain platform is created and is integrated with all EMR systems in a HIPAA compliant way, the quality of patient care will increase substantially due to the newly created ability for physicians to analyze patient data. Jon Purizhansky from Buffalo, NY hopes that the United States will become a leader in safe, private, and secure storage and distribution of health records, thereby increasing the efficiency of patient care in a previously unrealized way.