The Advent of a New Era in Healthcare

We are living in an extraordinary time for health care, an arena that is seeing impressive technological advancements with real applications in our daily lives. For example, EMRs (Electronic Medical Records) have existed since the 1960s, but today’s technology allows providers to retrieve a patient’s medical history and track changes over time for more comprehensive patient history leading to more personalized, efficient and effective patient care.

In an article in the October 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, A. James Bender and Robert S. Mecklenberg looked at How the EMR is Increasing Innovation and Creativity in Health Care. They examined innovations in EMR leading to safer, more effective, more affordable health care in three main areas: best-practice standards, embedded protocols, evidence-based standards in contracts with providers. They concluded that providers who embrace the full functionality of the EMR will have an advantage in gaining market share, lowering their costs and mistake-proofing the art of medicine that they bring to each of their patients. But are physicians ready for this?

Today’s developers are enhancing EMRs through large-scale, real-world applications of innovative technologies such as blockchain. Although blockchain technology has been adopted by companies and governments for a few large-scale projects, it is still at an early stage of the technology life cycle. The most notable application of blockchain is the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, but the future business opportunities and benefits that this technology brings go far beyond crypto.

In a time where the need for privacy and information security is paramount, blockchain’s decentralized cryptography is a godsend for health care management. Exploring the Use of Blockchain for EHRs, Healthcare Big DataBlockchain looks at how blockchain is ideally suited to address a number of trust issues, such as patient identification, patient consent, provider-sided user authentication, and even the discovery and reduction of billing fraud and erroneous malpractice claims.

Diffusion of Innovations

Why should the public put their trust in this new technology, especially when the privacy of their data is at stake? As Bitcoin is nearing the end of the “early adoption stage” of innovation diffusion, it has proven itself worthy across a variety of applications, such as finance, accounting, and marketplaces where blockchain technology is seeing major investments from some of the world’s largest organizations. The saturation of this technology in the health care industry — — particularly the digitization of personal health care records — — is only a matter of time.

But how much time? Some experts say it will be 5–7 years before blockchain technology reaches maturation. This timeline is based around the theory that a majority of adopters will be cautious to test the waters until the technology has gained momentum among other users, businesses, or governments. Some adopters may be reluctant to jump on the bandwagon

because they lack the information needed to make an informed decision. They may not know where to find the information, or it may not be accessible to them because organizations have not made it available. But, according to Mark Russinovich, CTO of Microsoft’s cloud computing service, Azure, “Industry enthusiasm for blockchain is growing, and while it will still take time for blockchain to achieve enterprise assurance, we remain laser focused on accelerating its development and enterprise adoption in partnership with the community.

Microsoft believes in an open approach to blockchain development.” (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/raconteur/technology/need-help-blockchain-top-three-experts/.)

Blockchain has a proven track record of success for decentralized and collaborative applications, removing the need for a “middle man” in most transactions, which lowers costs and improves efficiency. Although some skeptics remain, we know that blockchain has the potential to revolutionize industry, government, and the economy at large.

Can you imagine a world where doctors and other providers don’t own an EMR, but instead use a blockchain infrastructure to record medical history and findings? Can you imagine a healthcare setting where either the doctor or the patient pulls up their health records with a few swipes or taps and are collaboratively discussing the patient’s condition? — all without an EMR, but viewable privately and securely on blockchain. Instant and comprehensive access to medical history in a secure and private manner.

The foundation of a new era is upon us. A new paradigm in which privacy is of the utmost importance — — a right, rather than a privilege. A more prosperous world in which people actually participate in the value they create.