Blockchain offers countless opportunities for growth and development of many industries. Sectors like finance, banking, government and public services, education and commerce have already taken the first steps at embracing this revolutionary technology.
One of the industries blockchain can change beyond recognition is healthcare. In this post, we will cover the opportunities blockchain offers for the healthcare sector, and the present use cases of blockchain in healthcare.
Why does healthcare need blockchain?
Healthcare industry has a lot of issues on a local, national and global levels. It has been struggling with data collection, storage, and transfer problems for a long time now. Federal regulations and rules make all the healthcare procedures lengthy and tedious. The current healthcare system does not manage patient data well. Pretty often it happens so that one patient cannot gather all of their medical records in one place and in one format quickly, or cannot gather the needed information at all.
Unfortunately, critical patient information is in most cases scattered across different healthcare institutions in different formats. What makes it even harder for healthcare providers and patients is that data management systems and security regulations often vary across different institutions and states. What’s even worse, many medical records have mistakes in them, and the outdated data management systems cannot trace and fix these mistakes. It all boils down to this: in extreme situations and in time of urgent need, it is practically impossible to access all the needed patient information easily, quickly and securely.
What can blockchain do here? With the help of this innovative technology, healthcare providers will be able to facilitate their data management processes beyond recognition. Blockchain can help healthcare providers collect, exchange, analyze and secure medical records seamlessly. It will give doctors and patients an opportunity to access any needed patient data from anywhere without tolerating the privacy or security of any party.
Can blockchain be a panacea for the healthcare industry? One thing is for sure — this technology can help the healthcare system improve healthcare services greatly without rising the costs of the corresponding processes significantly.
Blockchain and patient data handling
Blockchain can help the healthcare sector solve the issue with patient data storage. Potentially, it can cancel all the cultural, geographical, political and religious limitations that interfere with patient data handling nowadays. When the patient data is stored in the blockchain, it can be processed, managed and transferred seamlessly and securely. It means that in times of greatest need and urgency all the required data will be there to save a life.
MedRec, an Ethereum-based system, is one of the first blockchain-powered solutions that aim at facilitating patient data management. MedRec makes it easy for patients and doctors to view and manage patient data securely.
As developers of electronic health record (EHR) software, my company gets into a lot of conversations with providers about their expectations for the future. This information helps us make decisions about what to build next. Here are three trends we’re hearing from our customers right now:
Low-tech beats high-tech in telemedicine
Unlike the way it was imagined decades ago by science fiction writers, telemedicine does not necessarily mean holographic images or live video conferencing with a physician half a continent away. Patients would rather receive “low tech” remote care from their primary care physician who has a full picture of their health status.
This form of telemedicine happens whenever an EHR system adds to a patient’s clinical chart the messages, pictures, or videos sent securely via smartphone. It happens whenever a smartphone connects to a remote health monitoring device for collection of real-time data such as blood pressure, oxygen levels, and heart rate.
The new rules allowing reimbursement of telemedicine and other non-face-to-face services will encourage physicians to bill for these remote care activities. Medicare’s recently expanded set of billing codes for Chronic Care Management (CCM) is a good example of how the future of value-based care goes beyond the office visit to keep patients out of hospitals and emergency rooms. The ability to securely and rapidly receive and answer a patient’s questions via text, and then capture those activities in the patient’s permanent clinical record is a critical step in that direction.
Primary care providers are trying new types of practices
Primary care physicians are frustrated with the hassle and expense of dealing with insurance companies. The new Medicare fee-for-value quality payment program is creating uncertainty about future reimbursement levels and requires additional reporting. Also, there is an acute level of burnout with “corporate medicine,” which has providers booked for dozens of daily appointments, only to spend less than 15 minutes with each patient.
In order to remain independent, a small but growing group of primary care practitioners are becoming more financially creative and experimenting with new models of practice. One example is direct care, in which a financial relationship is established directly between patient and provider, cutting out insurance altogether. This model includes concierge and direct primary care (DPC), where patients become “members” of a practice and pay a fixed monthly fee for unlimited primary care – similar to a gym membership, but for healthcare. Another example of direct care is the cash-only practice that sees walk-in patients for urgent care.
EHR interoperability will catch FHIR
Physicians and their patients are frustrated with the lack of interoperability in health IT. The concept of having a patient’s medical records accessible to any authorized provider at any time is still a rare occurrence. When a patient switches primary care physicians, the first office typically prints out and faxes their medical records to the second office, which introduces the possibility of errors, HIPAA violations, and others.