Why blockchain technology might replace today’s EHRs
A single, national blockchain-based approach would allow patients to become the owners of their data. It would allow the information to travel with them – to every new ED, physician’s office and hospital – both safely and securely. It could be updated as soon as new data is entered, anywhere in the country. And it could connect all of our medical information for the rest of their lives.
Of course, nothing like this is commercially available at the moment. It’s the old chicken and egg problem: Developers are unlikely to create solutions without data already entered into a blockchain format, and no one will want to capture the information in that form unless it can be used for clinical practice.
But the important thing is that it could happen. After all, much of the impetus for cryptocurrency was born out of the desire to move money around the globe safely and privately (and, occasionally, for reasons of questionable legitimacy). Today, cryptocurrencies are becoming increasingly mainstream and their uses more mundane. The same gradual expansion in utility could happen in healthcare, though exactly how remains to be seen.
At some point, patients and doctors will no longer tolerate the shortcomings of today’s EHRs. And when they demand change, third parties will be eager and available to come to the rescue. They’ll need their applications to connect with comprehensive patient information in a form that’s safe and secure. And when they have it, they will develop an electronic health record worthy of 21st-century patient care.
As patients, we deserve to have our medical information available wherever we go for our care. And it can be done, whether by forcing today’s EHR vendors to open their Application Processing Interfaces (APIs) to developers or by requiring all systems to adhere to identical design standards.
Blockchain technology could be the catalyst that, someday, accelerates a massive change process in American healthcare. For the health of our nation, I hope that day comes soon.