Blockchain is an emerging technology that has received quite a bit of attention for the potential to disrupt in a variety of industries. Healthcare stands to benefit from the technology as blockchains are designed for large volumes of data. The industry is characterized by massive amounts of data, much of it siloed and difficult to access through disparate technology.
The value that could be gained from the data for process improvement to increase efficiency and reduce costs has been held back by the lack of interoperability and accessibility. But blockchain may open the gate. The application of blockchain technology for the healthcare industry holds promise for everything from clinical and insurance records to payer files and supply chain.
Pete Nelson, vice president of Product Management for GHX explained one potential application for the healthcare industry recently in Blockchain: The Technology Rx for Healthcare? — tying together identifying information for both individual patients and for business entities. Currently, patients and business entities are identified by a wide range of numbers such as social security or insurance for patients and a variety of key identifiers for businesses such as ship-to numbers, global location numbers (GLNs) and postal codes for a single organization. Reconciliation of the data for either a patient or a business entity is error-prone and time-consuming. Blockchain would allow for a single number to connect all of the identifying data. In the example of an individual patient, blockchain would enable medical record interoperability, and the ability to centralize a patient’s medical history that today is spread across multiple providers and organizations. Imagine a single, real-time picture of the patient with the ability to share it with those who need it across the patient care continuum.
This is just a single way that the technology could solve a great need in healthcare. There are projects underway, many including multiple industry stakeholders. Blockchain technology is most effective when a massive amount of data is involved. Consequently, it makes it ideal for healthcare. But with data spread across systems and networks, the strength of blockchain applications will depend on industry collaboration.
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