Author: David Chou, VP, Chief Information and Digital Officer, Children’s Mercy Hospital
Sharing data among the healthcare industry’s primary stakeholders is a hassle, a problem most commonly felt around patient-centric care. In fact, the industry has been struggling for a long time trying to create a unique identifier for each patient so that data is streamlined and more easily shared while remaining private. Having a repository of various pieces of patient info would be incredibly helpful for patients needing to do things like pick up a pharmacy prescription internationally or see a specialist out of network.
In my last blog, I spoke about how the blockchain technology works and the overall benefits this technology can bring. I think blockchains can be a huge benefit for the healthcare industry to share patient data, creating trust and interoperability. There are a ton of use cases for it that can create value for everyone involved. Think about how big of a chore it is when you have kids and you must get immunization records for school? Blockchains can help from that standpoint to create that trust and bring together records easily. In this post, I’ll share two specific use cases for the healthcare industry.
Speed of Records
Think about the effort a patient goes through to see a different doctor, for instance a specialist. How is the patient going to get their patient records, or data, to that new doctor? Currently, it takes at least a week to share these records, usually through fax, printouts, email, or other very manual processes that require offices and patients calling each other multiple times to confirm the information. Data exchange is not easily fluid, and blockchain could solve that and create a more trusting environment. Many states have a Health Information Exchange (HIE) to help with part of this process, but blockchain provides greater scalability than a HIE. Blockchain is a distributed model with the ability to connect health institutions to each other and create trust which helps solve the privacy concerns many have with sharing patient data. More importantly, blockchain speeds up the process of sharing records among providers so patients can be seen sooner by a specialist or new doctor. This is just one small step in moving towards patient-centered care.
Another simple use case for blockchain is verifying physician credentials. The physicians are the most critical piece of healthcare and they too have to send data – qualifications, identification, licenses, business legitimacy – to hospitals, payers (insurance companies), and other providers. The current technology is outdated and the burden of this manual process can take up to 120 days and lies with physician providers. In addition, when a doctor moves they must get recertified in their new state. This is a lengthy and manual process to get this information from the former state. This use case, physician credentials, might be the perfect place to implement the new technology as a starting point to get buy-in from the healthcare industry because it excludes patient records, and the time and cost savings will reduce the overall healthcare system overhead.
To adopt blockchain technology in the healthcare industry, you still need many parties to work together and adopt a new, somewhat unknown technology and process. In the case of healthcare, blockchain as a technology is easy; it’s the adoption of change that is hard. I will discuss challenges and hurdles to the adoption of blockchains in my next blog.