Blockchain and Healthcare’s Interoperability Problem
- Blockchain has the potential to revolutionize healthcare IT
- In healthcare, blockchain can lead to better care, improved transparency, and added protection for all trusted parties
- Estonia: A golden model of blockchain
Pain point: Interoperability
Data management is one of the most pressing issues in the healthcare sector and the biggest barrier to true interoperability. The problems are many:
- Data Location
- Data Format: There is no universal digitization of healthcare data, although HL7 and FHIR are attempting to bridge the gap
- Data Processing
- Regulations & Requirements: Keeping up with government compliance protocols
- Data Definitions
- Data Structure: Structured vs Unstructured
- Data Complexity
How blockchain solves this in healthcare
According to Scripps Research, 10 percent of all scans in the United States are repeated unnecessarily simply because patients cannot get access to records and scans. The cost to consumers and payors is in the billions of dollars each year. And that’s just one example. Blockchain may hold the answer to the problem.
Essentially, blockchain creates a new platform for health information exchange (HIE) in regards to data sharing and management. In theory, current HIEs have the ability to share clinical data across disparate systems in real or near real -time. But whether they’re state sponsored, public or private, none of them work from a data management perspective.
Neil R. Kudler, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Pixel Health, says there are 3 key reasons.
“EMR vendors hold on to code in a proprietary fashion. Healthcare systems don’t want to share their proprietary data (especially with other hospitals in their region), and HIEs are expensive to maintain and cultivate.”
Blockchain overcomes those challenges because health records are shared in a decentralized manner. The result is a more efficient and cost–effective health exchange, supply chain accountability, and a reduction in billing and claims fraud.
Example of Blockchain’s Success in Healthcare
The Republic of Estonia is a golden model for healthcare blockchain. The Estonian government, in partnership with Guardtime, a cybersecurity company, has constructed a blockchain-powered secure health records management system for processing EHR information. By putting 1 million Estonian healthcare records onto a shared blockchain, patients and providers have a secure and comprehensive medical record system for the first time in history.
In Estonia, doctors are mandated by law to transmit data to this online health record. All patient relevant health data, such as their recent appointments, analyses and diagnoses, time-critical data such as allergies, prescriptions etc., is gathered in the record. So a patient’s Electronic Health Record is accessible to all licensed medical practitioners in Estonia, meaning that doctors from one practice can easily access patient data from another practice when treating a patient – so patients no longer need to fill out forms.
Blockchain can lead to better care, improved transparency, and added protection for all trusted parties.