The growing and growing threat to PHI security is in the news, creating a lot of awkward questions about the exchange of health information (HIE). For example, how can healthcare organizations reliably monitor the transfer of private patient data to other caregivers? Some suppliers they cannot even guarantee the safety of PHI within their own organization, let alone their journey to other institutions.
Blockchain is the technology that is expected to answer many questions and introduce a new level of transparency and security to HIE. We covered the advantages of the blockchain over traditional HIE architecture recent article to Forbes that you can check out.
What we haven’t commented on, though, is how exactly PHI travels in the blockchain-driven HIE.
The map of the PHI route through the health care network
It all starts when a caregiver provides services to patients, directing the data to the blockchain. Patient identifiable information is then tracked in the caregiver’s computer systems, while standard data fields, transactions, and the patient’s unidentifiable identifier are redirected to the blockchain using APIs.
Healthcare organizations, clinical researchers, and other institutions can directly consult the blockchain, submitting their requests via APIs. They can only access the patient’s public information, for example, age, sex, and diagnosis analyze this data to know the health of the population. In turn, patients can share their identifiable information with providers inside and outside their health plan.
For example, a diabetic patient travels across the country, catches a cold and is admitted to the hospital out of his network due to severe headaches and blurred vision that accompanies fever.
The hospital, by requesting the patient’s private key, can access the PHI, learn more about the patient’s history of diabetes, analyze the patient health data in general and treat this episode of hyperglycemia along with a cold. Well informed in this way, caregivers can significantly reduce the risk of complications.
Changes that the blockchain introduces to HIE
The new architecture allows providers to achieve two goals at once: to keep PHI private and to involve patients. These are the key security enhancements provided by blockchain:
- Improved security with encryption, cryptology and public / private access
- Improving data integrity through distributed ledger
- It allows a perfect integration with internal systems with API
- Promotion of electronic prescriptions and decentralized, trust-based and authenticated data exchange
And here are some benefits for patients:
- Involve patients through proprietary data and therefore allow for a proactive approach to disease treatment and prevention, including precision medicine
- Improve the integration of the IoT and cognitive computing
- Support population health management by ensuring the quality and relevance of available evidence to assist all stakeholders in making informed health decisions.
The beginning of the PHI journey
Because the blockchain is not a widely adopted standard or good practice at HIE, we are thrilled to be at the starting point and anticipate the evolution of technology and everything it touches. Currently, blockchain is the most promising candidate to renew the existing traditional architecture of the central database and the document of continuity of care (CCD). Hopefully, payers and providers will work together to streamline their adoption and make the PHI journey safer and more traceable.
That’s what we think, and you? We talk about the likelihood that blockchain will reimagine the exchange of health information, along with other benefits it can bring and challenges in its implementation.