Blockchain as an Electronic Medical Record Lifesaver?

Pam Lahoud

This post comes to us from Premier Developer consultant Crystal Tenn.

As of January 2014, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act required all public/private health care providers to use electronic medical records (EMR). That opened so much potential for technological advancements and better health care for all of us! Yet, the current state of medical records can be alarming. If you visit one doctor’s office or hospital, your records are most likely kept only in that office’s record system or in a very small united system. There are currently no universal health records to easily transfer lab tests, imaging, or your medications between visits. Many small private electronic medical records companies are getting bought out, costing offices money and patients their health as accuracy falls in the data conversion process.

  • Wouldn’t it be nice if your medical records were instantly available for any future visits? No more dragging CDs and films from office to office or digging up records from 10 years ago.
  • What if diagnosis was made simpler by having your entire medical history at the click of a button?
  • What if no one was injured by a counter-indicated medication or known allergic reaction because it was on record?

Enter blockchain technology.

Blockchain Basics

A blockchain is a shared digital ledger that is distributed to an entire shared network. The most well-known and originator of the technology is BitCoin, the innovative payment network and digital currency. If you would like to see a 5-minute basic introduction video on Blockchain, please see here:

Usage of cryptography and digital signatures help keep the data’s identity, authenticity and read/write access secure. The records are sequential and protected by the existing ledgers—to try to change the data one person would have to out-compute everyone else in the system and this is statistically improbable.

Blockchain implements the proof-of-work (POW) system which means that to get your block in the chain, it requires processing time by a computer to solve a problem first (this process is known as mining). These problems have an interesting asymmetry: While these problems take time to solve, they must be easy to verify since the entire network will verify the new block as it is added to the chain. The result is a consensus of one true string of records in an environment where no one requires any trust of the other members of the system.

Each block is protected by a digital signature and cryptographic encryption with both a public and private encryption key. Specific customization can be set by the blockchain technology used and the system created to add more layers of security. There are public and private blockchains. Public blockchains allow every user to see all transactions, but they are so encrypted that the data remains anonymous. Private blockchains have user rights for access to read and write to the chain.

The Potential of Blockchain on Medical Records

The potential to revolutionize medical technology for both healthcare providers and patients is endless. Blockchain technology provides a secure technology that I hope can be adapted for patient records (to be viewed between healthcare facilities with permission of the patient, and by the patient at home), healthcare payment (to streamline a faster way to integrate with insurance/Medicare and know how much a visit will cost) and within IoT devices (to connect to your patient records and get reactive healthcare from your providers).


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