Blockchain is no longer just a buzz word. The technology, which rose to fame by the decentralized digital currency Bitcoin, is entering the healthcare world.
By 2020, as much as 20 percent of healthcare organizations could be utilizing blockchain for operations management and patient identity, Computerworld reported, citing a report from IDC Health Insights.
The interoperability of blockchain for data exchange could replace health information exchanges, transmitting secure, real-time patient data for healthcare providers, pharmacies, insurance payers and clinical researchers.
However, adoption to the technology and any moves beyond pilot projects are slow to roll out, in part due to heavy regulatory and security concerns, Computerworld reported. The Department of Veterans Affairs issued a report on blockchain technology last year, noting the integrity of the ledger tech, but the agency has yet to implement any plans to leverage blockchain.
While blockchain wouldn’t change anything about healthcare data, it could work as a support skeleton for accelerate clinical data distribution. Still, blockchain could be as far as five to seven years away from being central to clinical workflow, Mutaz Shegewi, IDC's research director for provider IT transformation strategies, predicted.
Somewhere down the line, patients could even see digital tokens as a future benefit, as blockchain can create cryptocurrencies.
Some healthcare companies—including Mayo Clinic and Medicalchain, a London-based startup—are already using blockchain when it comes to EHRs. Medicalchain’s first platform, MyClinic.com, lets patients consult with healthcare providers remotely and share anonymized data, receiving MedTokens—Medicalchain’s cryptocurrency—in return