Secure access to patient data is a major issue for the healthcare industry. Patients have a hard time accessing their records and hospital networks need to transfer the data between networks if a patient chooses a new provider. That process can take days to complete, and even then, the patient doesn’t own their data.
“The biggest burden we have is getting access to patient data,” said Chrissa McFarlane, Patientory’s CEO and founder.
Patientory has generated enough buzz in the blockchain community that it managed to raise $7.2 million over a three-day period last year through cryptocurrency crowdfunding. The crowdfunding resulted in 1,728 contributors who bought 70 million PTOY currency coins. The blockchain technology that the company is offering is similar to what cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin currently operate on.
Blockchains are troves of data and records, known as blocks, that are linked together and secured using cryptography. They are designed to be secure and are part of a distributed computing system. Blockchains’ functions are decentralized – multiple computer systems possessing the same up-to-date ledger at the same time – and the lack of a central point of failure (a vulnerable central point that can be easily hacked) makes blockchains ideal for securing medical records. Think of blockchains as a virtual wallet and ledger.
McFarlane thinks blockchains could be the solution to the healthcare industry’s headaches around Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) violations and cybersecurity concerns. Blockchains can store and protect patient data because they’re tough to hack. At the same time, health providers can easily integrate them into hospital electronic records to provide a more efficient way of care for patient data, according to McFarlane.
“We’re basically solving the issue of siloed and centralized healthcare systems,” McFarlane said.
When it comes to care management, blockchains could secure patient data, with the patient able to access data through what would essentially be a virtual mobile wallet. Doctors and healthcare providers can save time and money treating patients with blockchains because it prevents them from having to go over and do duplicate tests for something when the information from a different provider can be easily accessed through a blockchain virtual wallet.
“The big idea is having a central location where patients can actually own that data,” said McFarlane. “Right now, patients don’t own that information. It’s owned by a hospital. That’s the biggest step – more patient empowerment.”
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to blockchain technology is the need to break down the silos in healthcare, according to McFarlane. Hospital system administrators, for example, might be reluctant to incorporate the technology because portable access to patient information might make it easier for a patient to go to another health provider. If Patientory and its patient information blockchain technology are to succeed, the company will have to find a way to bridge the gap between providers and patients.
“We’re going to see a much more free market economy and more consumerism in healthcare, which is a drawback for healthcare systems because while they may think they may lose money short-term, eventually it’s actually good for their performance and incentivizes healthcare systems to actually perform better once there is a sense of competition where patients can choose where they want to receive their healthcare,” McFarlane said.
Like cryptocurrency, people are either really in favor of blockchains or against it. It’s not going to be implemented quickly throughout healthcare systems.
“Look at Bitcoin. It took Bitcoin 10 years to get where it is, and it’s still in its early stages. While [blockchains are] still in its early stages, we can still see mass adoption within that five- to 10-year mark,” McFarlane said. “It’s definitely not happening overnight because it’s an emerging technology.”