We’ve all heard of the building blocks of society (family, home, friends, etc.). In the future, we may also have a common building block of healthcare: blockchains.
Blockchain technology was originally developed in 2008 to digitally and publicly record the exchange of Bitcoins, a digital, decentralized cryptocurrency not controlled by any government entity. The underlying idea behind the technology is that new records (blocks) of information can be linked to previous blocks of information, forming a chain of related, transactional data. Stored in chronological order, this information creates linked snapshots of transactions done by individuals. Rather than a stand-alone system used by a single organization, blockchain technology is meant to be used by multiple parties that form a peer network to securely share information.
Medical Peer Networks
Not surprisingly, the healthcare industry is taking serious notice of blockchain technology for the secure sharing of medical information. By forming medical networks, patient information could be stored in a centralized location for not just one provider but a whole host of providers for that individual. This would make it possible for multiple physicians or medical providers to access up-to-date patient information quicker and easier. An added benefit is that it gives a medical office a complete snapshot of the patient’s history, reducing the chance of missing a medication or disease.
This patient information may not only stem from physicians but also the patients themselves. Information gathered from wearable devices and patient portals could potentially be included in the data that is logged into the chain to form a more complete picture of patient health.
Verification & Permanence
One important aspect of blockchain technology is the fact that it has an inherent open and decentralized design. Credentialed members of the medical network associated with the blockchain would be able to add blocks of patient information to the system with the caveat that the information would have to be validated by others in the network before it became part of the chain. This verification process should make patient records more accurate.
Record permanence is another important part of blockchain technology. Once a block has been added to the chain, the network members will not have access to delete or modify that record. This should add to more security of patient information.
Blockchains use measures to provide increased security from cyber attackers. The technology uses cryptography to better protect identities and prevent identity theft. It also protects the integrity of the data by requiring verification of data and not allowing data manipulation once it is in the system. The infrastructure of blockchains may make it more protected from hackers because it is not a single target. While blockchains are not completely hack-proof, they may be more secure than other medical health record systems.
At a Glance: Benefits of Blockchain for Healthcare
- All electronic medical records across multiple providers (physicians, hospitals, pharmacies, etc.) could be housed in a centralized location.
- Information can be stored in a chronological, organized manner.
- Quick and easy accessibility of crucial and potentially life-saving information.
- Records are permanent and cannot be altered.
- New records must be validated by the network before they can be added, so there is a greater chance of data accuracy.
- No single person or organization has control of the information.
- Potential for improved data security because information is not stored on a single computer that can be easily hacked by cyber attackers.
Blockchains for Medical Billing
Blockchain technology could also be implemented for medical billing including payments and claims processing. Practices that implement this technology could see an improvement in their revenue cycle management due to a reduction in billing mistakes and unpaid claims.
Technology is Underway
There are several companies currently developing blockchain technology for healthcare:
- Accenture and Microsoft: digital identity program for 1.1 billion people worldwide with no formal ID so they can have access to healthcare
- Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger: an open source effort to advance the technologies behind blockchain in a collaborate manner
- Microsoft’s Coco: another open source blockchain framework
The Market is Growing
According to a Markets and Markets report, the blockchain industry is expected to grow from $241.9 million in 2016 to $7.86 billion in 2022. While this is not all aimed at healthcare, it shows that the technology is on the rise. There is still much research that must go into developing and successfully implementing blockchains for healthcare.
Blockchains for healthcare represent the idea of working together toward the common good. When it comes to something so personal and important as medical care, it makes sense that the people responsible for administering life-saving and life-enhancing information or treatments have the most complete and accurate information about a person’s health as possible. Blockchains may be the perfect solution for modern medicine.
MSOs: A Different Type of Collaboration
Management Services Organizations (MSOs) are another type of collaboration that works toward a common goal of making healthcare services and products more affordable for medical practices of all sizes. Advantage Healthcare Consulting, a division of Advantage Administration, is one such MSO that helps practices (especially solo ophthalmology practices) gain access to a full range of high-quality medical support at reduced rates. Members get group discount pricing on things like medical supplies, equipment, medical billing services, marketing services and much more.
To learn more about the savings available, contact Advantage Healthcare Consulting today.