The ability to use blockchain technology to create a single easily accessible universal health record for each patient is driving healthcare organizations to make significant advancements in the way they manage patient data and track medical records. The numerous challenges of interoperability, patient record matching, and health information exchange, along with the sensitive nature of the healthcare data, provide immense opportunities for blockchain. In the light of this, a group of MIT graduates has developed a blockchain-based solution, MedRec, a system that tackles the problem of unifying electronic health records (EHR) data across disparate providers. This system uses Ethereum blockchain for managing medical records and aims to restore patient’s control over their medical data by linking access to the patient’s medical records across their doctor’s databases. The MedRec system also easily integrates with a providers’ existing local data storage solutions, enabling interoperability. This technological advancement eliminates the common challenges of data duplication, confusion, and time wasted in searching for health information and provides medical researchers with quick access to large volumes of valuable medical records.
In another example, the Estonian eHealth Foundation has partnered with Guardtime—a software company that develops products based on blockchain technology—to enable providers with more comprehensive and secure access to electronic health records. This e-Estonia project aims to secure the Estonian populace’s public health records with single, unified credentials, a national eID card, which they can use to access health services. Each activity, whether a record is accessed or altered, gets logged in the blockchain, and a "keyless signature" is returned and stored next to the record, which bears proof as to when the changes were made, while the blockchain independently verifies as to who made them. Estonians will no longer have to fill out complicated medical forms at each appointment because the physicians can refer to their digital records. Paramedics can also access the same medical information on their e-ambulance apps, arriving at the hospital fully briefed on a patient’s medical history so they can deliver the best care possible.
Though blockchain technology is still its infancy, its potential in healthcare is becoming clearer. Carefully harnessing this technology with standardized application programming interfaces (APIs) and modularized architecture can extend its advancement in the healthcare systems. This distributed ledger technology is a much better option when compared to centralized solutions, because of its tamper-proof content and ability to provide a new model for health information exchange by making medical records more efficient, disintermediated, and secure.