The technology alone won’t fix patient ID issues but it can bring some of the data accessibility, interoperability, integrity and security hospitals need.
The white paper “Blockchain for Dummies” by Manav Gupta says, “Blockchain is a shared, distributed ledger that facilitates the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a business network. Virtually anything of value can be tracked and traded on a blockchain network, therefore reducing the risks involved.
The blockchain network is economical and efficient, because it eliminates duplication of effort and reduces the need for intermediaries. It is also less vulnerable, because it uses consensus models to validate information. Transactions are secure, authenticated, and verifiable.” Simply put, it’s a new technology that has enough potential to revolutionize the IT world, and just about every industry that relies heavily on IT.
The power of blockchain and realizing its full potential to simplify, speed, and lower the cost of transactions depends on stakeholders to participate, cooperate, agree, coordinate, implement, and adopt across the healthcare industry. No wonder tech pioneers from various industries are searching high and low for ways to implement blockchain solutions into business operations.
Health care is certainly one of these industries where blockchain implementation is a welcome change. A recent survey revealed that 19 percent of responding hospital executives, and 76 percent of payers, were either planning to deploy or were already implementing some kind of blockchain systems. Maryville University created a helpful infographic to help outline this potential solution.
Sounding the Alarm
One in four data breaches occur in the healthcare industry. This not only affects millions of Americans, but it also costs $363 per record. These breaches have been predicted to affect one in thirteen patients between 2015 and 2019.
The largest number of individuals were impacted in hospital data breaches as well, found the research team led by Meghan Hufstader Gabriel, PhD, University of Central Florida.
There were 215 breaches that affected 500 or more individuals in the research time period, with 185 occurring at nonfederal acute care hospitals. Thirty hospitals had multiple breaches during that time, which included 24 hospitals having two breaches and five hospitals reporting three breaches. One hospital had four breaches, the study found.
“Even with sophisticated health information technology (IT) systems in place, security breaches continue to affect hundreds of hospitals and compromise thousands of patients’ data,” the researchers wrote. “This gives cause to believe that other hospital factors, such as area characteristics, region, bed size, health system membership, hospital type, hospital governance, and market concentration, may play a vital role in breach risk.”
Paper and films were the most common type or cause of the reported data breaches. Network servers were found to be the most infrequent data breach location, but these types of incidents impacted the most patients overall.
Major Healthcare Cyber Hacks in 2017
Healthcare proved itself a lucrative target for hackers in 2016, and so far 2017 is unfortunately following suit. A cyberattack against the Arkansas Oral Facial Surgery Center affected 128,000 patients. An attack on St. Mark’s Surgery Center’s patient data affected 33,877 more. The Mid-Michigan Physicians Imaging Center was the victim of a cyberattack that left the records of 106,000 patients compromised. Indiana Medicaid was also hit by massive cyberattack that exposed the records of 1.1 million patients.
“5.6M Patient Records Breached in 2017”
What Hackers Do with the Data
Once the data has been intercepted, hackers can sell patient files on the black market for as much as $20 a pop. They can also use the hacked info to create fake IDs, which could lead to insurance fraud or the purchasing of drugs and medical equipment that could be resold. Additionally, hackers can use the data as leverage in ransomware.
Healthcare data sells for a price 10 to 20 times more than a stolen Mastercard account. The reason is that unlike banking information, healthcare data stays correct for a lifetime.
“There are more than 8,000 healthcare publications each day. Nobody can keep up. We need a system to translate all the data into key insights that can be applied to a patient…”
— Kyu Rhee, Chief Health Officer at IBM
Blockchain Revolution and Improving Industries
IBM is exploring the potential of blockchain technology in conjunction with the supply chain. Their goal is to possibly use the tech to improve the traceability of food, which would make the supply chain safer. Meanwhile, Ethereum is using the tech to impact financial services by providing increased privacy using blockchain “smart contracts.”
Other industries could potentially benefit from blockchain tech. The travel industry could use it for biometric verification. The security industry could implement it to store personal records. Retail stores could also use utilize it to access brand SKUs. Finally, the tech could be helpful in creating tamper-proof ledgers that could reduce voter fraud.
The speed of which the technology is adopted depends on its novelty factor and how much coordination is required for the system to properly work. Its use is projected to increase: in 2017, 15% of healthcare applications had adopted blockchain technology for commercial deployment; this percentage is predicted to jump to 55% by 2025.
A Hopeful Solution for Healthcare
An electronic health record, or EHR, contains the patient’s name, date of birth, and social security number. It also contains the names of the patient’s employers, dependents, and more. Considering the increasing number of healthcare data breaches, blockchain technology that enables patient-mediated health data exchange provides a potential security solution opportunity.
Health Data Exchange
With blockchain, a ledger will store health data but not identification. Users will have an address that’s secured with keys in their wallet. This patient-mediated health data exchange network will improve the efficiency of health data flow across the healthcare system, and it can allow patients to see who is accessing their data and for what purpose.
Shifting Responsibilities of Advanced Practice Nurses
Blockchain technology – specifically out-of-hospital or OOH blockchains, will affect real-time population health data analysis and alerts. It will also affect the tracking of drug development, remote device monitoring, and telemedicine. Additionally, the tech will affect doctor and nurse credentialing as well as home health visit data sharing.
Though implementation blockchain technology in a healthcare organization may be the responsibility of IT departments, advanced practice nurses will need to adjust their responsibilities. They’ll need to keep abreast of the latest technology developments, be prepared to educate patients on OOH blockchain application usage, and collaborate with IT professionals and other staffers regarding new blockchain application opportunities.
It may be several years before blockchain technology is fully accepted and integrated into the healthcare system. As IT departments and senior leaders consider the possibilities, advanced practice nurses must do their part to stay cognizant of blockchain technology advancements. They also must embrace changes and shifts in their daily responsibilities, whether this means educating patients about blockchain applications, monitoring data from remote devices via OOH blockchain applications, or adjusting to the ways health data is shared.