How and why blockchain technology will transform healthcare Part 2

Blockchains in the medical field and their benefits for patients.

 

What is critically important is that on a blockchain network data about patients, including records from doctors, data about medications, dosage, and more would have time stamps and would be immutable, which provides patients with several benefits.

 

Calendars of events with timestamps

First, the doctors will able to see the times of events that have occurred. This is critically important because a person may have the same symptom or issue occurring on a regular basis for the same reason.

It can be that someone is having discomfort because of the noise that is occurring in their neighbor’s house every weekend. The neighbors start partying, turn on the music and the situation repeats itself week after week. A person may have a similar pattern in which there is a trigger and a condition. If a condition develops not right away or if the trigger is subtle, figuring out what is going on may be not as easy as in the example above.

If there is no record about a complaint to a doctor or a condition developing with a timestamp, events can go unnoticed, but if a care provider has access to the full history linked to a calendar, he or she can see that there are events that occur on weekends, on certain times during the week, during certain periods of the year, and so on. Such information could be extremely beneficial in a treatment of a condition.

 

Preservation of information

Second, in case of a dispute, a medical organization will not be able to hide, alter or delete any information. When an organization is storing records in a traditional format, be it electronic or paper, in case of a medical malpractice lawsuit or investigation people in an organization may have a temptation to delete or edit records. With blockchains, this is simply not possible because once information becomes a part of blockchain, it can’t be deleted.

This property of blockchains is the reason why a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin can serve as a peer-to-peer system. Before Bitcoin and Satoshi Nakamoto, nobody was able to solve the issue of double-spending. In plain language, this means that nobody could figure out how to prevent data from being copied indefinitely.

With all the layers to cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, it is easy to forget that blockchains are software, digital files and data. On your computer or mobile device, you can make any number of copies of a file, which was the exact problem with digital funds and money. Before blockchain, there was no way other than strict government regulations in the banking system and reliance on trusted parties to prevent someone from making copies of digital money in the same way you would make digital copies of files on your computer.

Blockchain solved this issue by making records permanent and impossible to delete, which is a property that is useful not just for the financial industry, but for a number of various industries and fields, including the medical industry.

 

A transparent ecosystem and accountability of service providers

The third benefit that the immutability of records on blockchains will provide providers of medical services and their customers is the level of transparency and accountability that did not exist in the past.

In case of medical malpractice, no doctor or hospital is interested in other patients learning about pending or settled malpractice cases and lawsuits. Many of the hospitals are parts of hospital networks that have a lot of money. Such a network could do a lot of things to try and hide information, including down ranking or removing search results with traditional search engines, running public relations campaigns in the media and more.

Here is an example how this could work. Let’s say there is a malpractice lawsuit about a hospital and newspapers, magazines and websites write about the lawsuit. This means that when somebody enters the name of the hospital into a search engine, they will be able to see the information about the lawsuit as one of top search results.

However, for a hospital or any other organization with sufficient funds this problem is easy to solve. A hospital can run a charity drive or hire a public relations company that will come up with ideas for a variety of events that will create a positive brand message. The public relations company will then create and distribute press releases and all the newspapers, magazines and websites will start writing positive things about the hospital. Now, when a prospective patient searches for the hospital on a search engine, he or she will see a lot of positive articles and may not even get to the negative information. The information may still be in Google, it is just that it will be far down in search results and prospective patients may never see it.

With blockchain, things could work very differently. A blockchain network could have profiles for hospitals and then it could collect all the information about hospitals, doctors and other medical service providers. Because of the immutability property of blockchain technology, once the information is on the blockchain, it will be there forever and hiding it would not be possible. Anyone would be able to see it and access it just like anyone can see a history for all the financial transactions that have happened on the Bitcoin blockchain since Satoshi Nakamoto launched it in 2009.