Electronic Health Records (EHR) on blockchain can be transformational
According to the US Department of health and human services, “Over 15 million health records have been compromised by data breaches within the last 24 months.” In the US alone, around $80 billion is lost every year owing to healthcare fraud, as estimated by the National Healthcare Anti-Fraud Association. The situation may worsen as the amount of medical data grows, and the issues with our traditional health record systems prevail.
What are Electronic health records?
Electronic health records (EHRs) are defined as “systematized collection of patient and population electronically-stored health information in a digital format. EHRs may include a range of data, including demographics, medical history, medication and allergies, immunization status, laboratory test results, radiology images, vital signs, personal statistics, and billing information.”
EHR plays a critical role in assisting doctors and healthcare institutions in analyzing a patient’s profile and providing suitable treatment. Offering proper medication has become essential as we fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, implementing a robust and interoperable system of EHR can ensure appropriate treatment globally. And yet, our electronic health record (EHR) systems are lacking behind, plagued with issues like –
1. lack of interoperability,
2. lack of secure accessibility,
3. and lack of better security.
These growing concerns, followed by breaches, frauds, and data thefts prevent healthcare providers from offering quality patient care.
Having an integrated and secure health record for each patient that can be shared seamlessly in real-time across countries can ensure better and faster treatment. Can blockchain be the answer? Let’s examine.
How can blockchain transform electronic health records systems?
Blockchain can transform the way a patient’s electronic health records are stored and shared. It can provide a safer, more transparent, and traceable underpinning system for health information exchange. The technology has the potential to connect multiple data management systems working in silos and provide what could be a connected and interoperable electronic health record system.
So, how health information can be stored on the blockchain and can be seamlessly accessed by patients and healthcare providers? We have summarized it in 4 simple steps-
1. The doctor provides treatment to the patient and stores the patient’s report with tests, medication, and important notes on their existing health data system. Then the data fields assigned to the patient’s public ID are redirected to the blockchain through APIs. Here, a transaction is generated.
2. Each transaction on the blockchain is verified and given a unique identity (public key) that is stored on the blockchain.
3. Doctors and health organizations can generate a query through APIs and use the patient’s public key to retrieve the encrypted patient data.
4. Patients can authorize the doctor or the healthcare institute by sharing the private key (which acts like a password) to decrypt their data. Thus, the data remains encrypted for those without the private key.
Advantages of a blockchain-based medical record system
There are majorly four advantages that blockchain can offer to the traditional health record system.
Interoperability — Currently, systems in different countries are fragmented and don’t talk to each other. An electronic health record based on the blockchain can unlock true interoperability by connecting fragmented systems across countries and regions.
Security — With blockchain, healthcare data can be stored immutably in a decentralized manner instead of storing in one database. As a result, there would be no single point of entry for a hacker to retrieve the data. That’s how blockchain can ensure better data security for health information.
Authorization — Blockchain enables patients with better control of their data. Once the data is stored on the blockchain and assigned to the public key, the patient can provide access to the data to only the required authorities.
Transparency — Every node on blockchain stores a copy of the data which is updated in real-time. Thus, any alteration or corruption to the health data will be immediately spotted. The system also signs every transaction with a cryptographic stamp which allows tracing back to the origin of every piece of data.
Blockchain can bring remarkable benefits to medical record systems and a plethora of new opportunities to the healthcare industry. Download our ebook: Redefining Healthcare with Blockchain enlighten yourself on how blockchain can revolutionize the healthcare sector.
Challenges with blockchain
The technology is promising to transform electronic health records but may face certain challenges.
First would be the sheer amount of medical data that organizations may need to store. BigchainDB is one of the solutions to store huge data sets on blockchain and reap all its benefits.
Second is the lack of proper understanding of blockchain as a technology. Health organizations may find it challenging to adopt a technology that is still new for them and implement it into their existing systems. They need to partner with blockchain companies that can smoothen the adoption and implementation process.
As the demand for better healthcare facilities grows, the quality of patient care needs to improve. Implementing a blockchain-based medical record system can ensure some exciting changes to the industry ensuring quality care for the patients. It is to be seen how the future unfolds for the blockchain in the healthcare industry.