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Interest in blockchain technology is gaining ground as the healthcare industry struggles with a growing swell of cyberattacks and concerns over use of patient health data.
The technology allows for transactions of data without an intermediary, much like the currency Bitcoin. It can open an easy-to-see trail of transactions, and also can ensure only certain parties have access to data.
In mid-July, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the National Institute for Standards and Technology called for white papers on the use of blockchain for health IT and related research.
Weeks before the deadline, according to SearchHealthIT, the organizations received about 70 submissions.
One submission came from Peter Nichol, former IT chief of the Connecticut state HIE, who said in the article that blockchain can show when data has been manipulated and blocked. Jeff Brandt, a noted California health IT developer, is co-author of the paper.
Nichol added that it will take time for the technology to gain ground, but that after 2020 it will be “commonplace.” The report noted that perhaps the biggest use for blockchain will involve helping to reduce Medicare fraud.
Blockchain is very tricky to hack, Brandt told SearchHealthIT, because “there's nothing on the chain.” It’s just points to where the records are located.
Even Humana’s CEO, Bruce Broussard, sees the technology as being transformational. In a public post on LinkedIn early this month, he said that using blockchain, “the health plan and provider could translate the wide variety of agreements needed to contracts on the blockchain so everyone has visibility, and clarity exists for both the provider and the member.”
He went on to say, “when a transaction is processed, the blockchain checks the authorization, and everyone can view the status, history and next steps.”
He also notes that it has the potential create a better level of interoperability within the industry. A lack of easy and open exchange of data has long been a thorn in healthcare’s side.