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Blockchain & Interoperability For EHR Systems – A Brief Primer

Blockchain & Interoperability For EHR Systems – A Brief Primer

Cryptocurrency & Blockchain

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Like most other sectors and segments of the economy, blockchain technology is all the rage in healthcare, and its not hard to see why. Data, its handling, ownership, and interoperability is increasingly valuable across most industries, and healthcare is no exception. 

In fact, EHR or electronic healthcare records that have driven substantial efficiency gains in hospitals and practices since the turn of this century, remain largely constricted given its lack of interoperability, and restricted flow of data, something that blockchain stands to unlock.

Blockchain & Interoperability For EHR Systems – A Brief Primer

Far from being a buzzword, blockchain has plenty of applications and remarkable potential in healthcare. While still in its infancy, we can already see trends emerging, from what is essentially a match made in heaven, with billions more in potential value all set to be unlocked in the years ahead.

Decentralization & Security

One of the biggest advantages of blockchain is its decentralized nature, and in the case of healthcare and EHRs, hospitals and users are no longer held hostage by software service providers with centralized data ownership.

All data and transactions are stored on a distributed ledger for all to see in a secure and transparent manner.

The data, also immutable, meaning they cannot become changed or modified. What goes on the ledger is irreversible, which has substantial advantages, but also comes with its share of drawbacks.

Blockchains are further distributed across 1,000s, or even millions of different networks of computers, which ensures that there is no single point of failure in the system, leading to substantial security, and safety from hackers and other nefarious actors.

Transparency & Privacy

Anyone with any experience in the healthcare industry can testify to the amount of administrative and process-related bloat that this sector has to deal with. This is largely the result of the lack of trust and transparency in legacy systems.

For example, insurers require extensive documentation to prove the necessity of different procedures and therapies before disbursing funds. This, however, will not be that cumbersome, if everything pertaining to a patient’s medical history is on the blockchain, making for easy, seamless verification.

This doesn’t mean that patient data is free-for-all, if anything, it is precisely the other way around, with patients having complete ownership of their data, and only sharing it with relevant stakeholders when necessary, unlike the largely centralized data ownership that is prevalent today.

Interoperability

One of the biggest advantages of blockchain technology in EHR systems is their interoperability, that means to say different systems, tools, and software will be able to communicate with each other and work with the same data. 

To better illustrate this, software for care management agencies, even if it’s made by a different company, in a different part of the world, will now be able to access medical records, and all relevant data pertaining to a patient, seamlessly and effortlessly.

Interoperability has long been the missing puzzle stifling digitalization in healthcare, and with blockchain, it is finally within the realm of possibility. While efficiencies it drives will destroy countless administrative jobs, it stands to drive plenty of value for medical professionals and patients in the long run.

Final Words

Irrespective of what the naysayers believe, blockchain has undeniable potential to fundamentally reshape electronic healthcare records, and with it the broader healthcare industry. 

For blockchain enthusiasts and healthcare professionals, these are undeniably exciting times, with many of the features discussed above bringing about monumental changes in the industry that extends beyond just data sharing, and interoperability.

These changes will essentially empower doctors to get more work done and spend less of their time dealing with bureaucratic hurdles. Similarly, technologies built on blockchain will enable telemedicine to gain more traction, bringing the likes of Teladoc and MDLive into the mainstream.

Blockchain & Interoperability For EHR Systems – A Brief Primer