Electronic health records are vital for the health care industry, as they enable better patient care and improved outcomes. However, current methods of storing and sharing this data are not secure or effective.
Enter blockchain technology—a distributed, decentralized digital ledger system able to securely store and share data in near real-time. Unlike current systems, which are prone to hacking or other forms of cybertheft, a blockchain-based system can better protect patient information and ensure that only those who need it have access. In addition, blockchain’s distributed architecture makes data more reliable to access, while its transparency and auditing capabilities provide an extra layer of security.
By encrypting patient data and storing it on a secure blockchain network, electronic health records (EHRs) can remain private, yet shareable across different health care providers and stakeholders. By using blockchain, health care providers can ensure that all records remain secure and authenticated — reducing the risk of fraud and ensuring accuracy.
Unfortunately, over 11,500,000,000 medical records have been breached since 2005, according to Privacyrights.org. Now, more than ever, with advancing cyberattacks and fraud, it’s vital to begin implementing a secure system that can protect patient data.
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Benefits of the Blockchain For Patients
Perhaps no one benefits more from using a blockchain in health care than patients themselves. Below are some of the many advantages patients can experience when using the blockchain for their EHRs.
Blockchain increases accuracy while reducing costs associated with manual record-keeping. How does the blockchain manage to do this? Smart contracts.
These work by automatically executing certain actions when specific conditions are met. So for instance, a smart contract could be used to automatically transfer funds between a health care provider and an insurer without requiring any manual input or verification. Or, once a patient receives a diagnosis, this can automatically be time stamped on the blockchain, allowing health care providers to quickly access this information for further care.
Improved Data Access
Unfortunately, distributed computing in the world of health care is much more difficult than it needs to be. Patients are often forced to wait for days or even weeks just to receive their medical records from different providers. The blockchain helps solve this problem by allowing providers, insurers and other stakeholders to securely share data in real time. This means that patients have instant access to their records without having to wait for them to be processed.
Because blockchain utilizes strong encryption protocols and consensus mechanisms, it makes sure that all data is accurate and up-to-date while keeping hackers out of sensitive information. This improved security helps protect patient’s confidential medical records from cyberattacks or fraudulent activities. For instance, if a hacker were to try to access a patient’s medical records, the blockchain would recognize the unauthorized access attempt and deny it. This makes it much harder for criminals to steal patient data or manipulate records. Sadly, clinics such as Planned Parenthood have been victims of cyberattacks and data breaches in the past, but with blockchain technology, such attacks can become much harder to pull off.
Improved Data Integrity
Data integrity is paramount when it comes to health care records, as inaccurate or outdated data can have serious consequences. By using blockchain, patients can make sure their data is secure and accurate at all times thanks to immutability, consensus, and the use of proof of authority. Proof of authority is a consensus algorithm that allows specific nodes (or users) to be identified as trustworthy and thus allowed to write data on the blockchain. This ensures that only verified health care providers can access and modify patient records.
These verified health care providers are known as validators, and play a key role in helping reduce as many as 51% of attacks to medical records. The reason being that any malicious changes to a record would need to be verified by all validators, making it virtually impossible for attackers to gain control of the data.
Benefits of Blockchain For Providers
By using the technology to store patient records, providers can reduce their administrative burden and cost of operations, reduce fatal medical errors, improve interoperability, and so much more.
Using blockchain offers real cost savings for both patients and health care providers. By reducing manual processes and administrative costs associated with data entry and verification, both parties can save huge amounts of time and money. It’s estimated that the average up-front cost of an in-office EHR is approximately $36,000 a year, while a SaaS- based EHR can cost $22,000 a year upfront.
Reduce Medical Mistakes
According to John Hopkins, the third leading cause of death is medical errors, which account for an estimated 250,000 deaths per year in the United States alone. These errors can be due to a variety of factors such as misdiagnoses, incorrect prescriptions, and medical records not being up-to-date.
Blockchain gives providers access to up-to-date and accurate information at all times, which can help reduce the risk of misdiagnosis or incorrect prescriptions. Additionally, with the use of smart contracts, doctors can automate certain processes such as ordering medication or setting up follow-up appointments, further reducing the risk of medical errors.
How To Start Implementing Blockchain in EHR
Unfortunately, many providers report burnout due to the constantly changing field of EHRs, with new regulations and standards being introduced every year. Therefore, it is important to have a plan in place when it comes to implementing blockchain technology into an EHR system. Here are some steps that healthcare providers should consider:
- Assess the potential benefits of using blockchain for your EHR system
- Develop a strategy for integrating blockchain into your EHR system
- Ensure that your technology and infrastructure is up-to-date and capable of handling a blockchain system
- Research the various vendors offering blockchain solutions for health care providers
- Create clear policies and procedures for using blockchain in an EHR system
- Train staff on how to use a blockchain-based EHR system, and give adequate support
By taking the time to properly review and plan your implementation of blockchain technology into an EHR system, health care providers can ensure they are getting the most out of the technology while providing the best care possible for their patients.