Blockchain technology can dramatically transform health care delivery

Blockchain technology has the potential to dramatically transform health care delivery by facilitating data exchange between providers and electronic health record (EHR) systems. A decentralized and transparent platform, blockchain technology provides an authenticated platform that applies a consensus-driven approach to facilitate the interaction of multiple entities through a shared ledger. For the health care sphere, blockchain is simply the sharing of medical information through EHRs across numerous hospital systems that are part of the same distribution group. Any health care organization, regardless of their native EHR system, would be able to exchange medical information when participating in a blockchain consortium.

Despite the fact that there is still some hesitation surrounding the widespread adoption of blockchain technology within health care, including questions about how it will integrate with existing technology and the difficulty in changing cultural norms, there are several key benefits that blockchain can provide health care systems. One of the most widely accepted benefits is the fact that blockchain supports the use of a single, longitudinal patient record. All patient data, including problem lists, progress notes, lab results, treatments, etc. can be compiled using blockchain technology and shared among providers. Blockchain technology can also be used to develop master patient indexes, in which a provider can search for a patient using multiple keys and always produce a single patient identification. By linking the entire data set to one ledger, blockchain can reduce the number of mismatched or duplicate medical records. In addition to streamlining patient medical information for providers, blockchain can simplify the process for both claims adjudication and supply chain management. Operating on a validation-based exchange that can automatically verify claims, blockchain can contribute to fewer errors or frauds when processing a claim. Additionally, blockchain can assist health care organizations by monitoring supply-demand cycles.

Perhaps the most significant benefit of adopting blockchain technology in health care is the promise of interoperability. By using application programming interfaces (APIs) to make EHR interoperable and data storage a more reliable process, providers who are part of a blockchain network can have secure and standardized data reconciliation, thus eliminating many of the typically associated costs and burdens.

Ultimately, the willingness of health care organizations to create the required technical infrastructure to support blockchain effectively will be the final hurdle to widespread adoption. If all the hype surrounding blockchain is accurate, this technology has the potential to transform the big data landscape within the world of health care.

Ashwini M. Zenooz is a radiologist.

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