Blockchain can still be an emerging technology, but very similar to the Internet, its promise to destroy industries is the topic of greedy conversation. The attraction of the blockchain lies in its ability to decentralize and encrypt transactions. Blockchains are also designed for huge volumes of disparate data. Health care, one of the most data-intensive industries, benefits tremendously from technology.
Data presented a huge obstacle for the health sector. Disparate systems and silos data are on the agenda. The result is a lack of accessibility and interoperability of data that prevents the industry from using data to improve processes to increase clinical and operational efficiency and reduce costs. While the blockchain "killer app" has yet to emerge, technology has the potential to be applied across the industry, from clinical records and medical devices to insurance registers, payers' files and the supply chain.
One of the most exciting blockchain opportunities is patient identification. Today a patient is identified by a wide range of numbers – social security, insurance, medical records, etc. For organizations that rely on this information, this makes reconciling the data of a particular patient that takes time, subject to errors and in times, absolutely impossible. Blockchain opens its doors to the industry to link all these numbers together, regardless of the number used by an organization. A number connects to all the "chi" data for an individual patient. The same opportunities also apply to business entities, linking key identifiers, such as shipping numbers, GLN addresses and postal code, to identify a single organization.
The elimination of conjecture in the identification and connection of patients and corporate entities will allow the industry to finally reach the interoperability of medical records. Today a patient's medical history is spread across multiple suppliers and organizations, making it difficult not only to access information, but also to share it with those who need it. Blockchain could link these multiple data sources to create a single, real-time image of the patient.
This is just one way in which blockchain offers great promises to solve a series of health data challenges. Indeed, many pilot projects are currently underway. These projects, which typically involve more actors in the sector, highlight one of the key components of blockchain success: the collaboration of the sector. Blockchain technology is more suitable for huge amounts of data. One-off initiatives will fail to exploit the power of technology. The industry must work together to find the best technology applications, otherwise it will fail in its mission to obtain information from large amounts of data to improve efficiency, reduce costs and provide exceptional patient care.
Pete Nelson is the Vice President of Product Management of GHX.