At first glance, blockchain technology confuses most people. On second glance, not much changes! So let’s take a quick second to define what “blockchain” actually means. The technical definition is pretty simple: “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way”. What we as healthcare IT professionals care about is that last clause, “verifiable” and “permanent”. Essentially, this means that no matter what you put on the blockchain, that distributed database, you can do two things. First, anyone can verify that the blockchain says what you say it does – there’s no trust required. Second, once you put something on the blockchain, you can never remove it – “immutability”. Those two properties are incredibly useful, and can really improve the quality of care you provide your patients. Any technical developments that come with this new digital age should be welcomed, as most, such as software for medical practitioners, are going to help you to make your healthcare practice operations more efficient, therefore saving time and money. So let’s cover a few high-level ways blockchain can improve your healthcare practice.
One of the biggest healthcare-related social issues today is the rate of opioid addiction and misuse. The National Institute of Drug Abuse indicates that 130 people die from opioid misuse every day. Further, the economic burden of opioid misuse approaches $80 billion a year. We all know that such a complex issue doesn’t have an easy solution. Many try to make use of drug testing (learn more about that here) to help keep this tracked and under control, but whilst the tests can detect the drugs, treatment or control of the drugs are a different matter. But on a per-practice level, we can utilize blockchain to track what patients of ours get prescribed opioids. Blockchain’s immutability helps us here – when we prescribe opioids, we can note that in a blockchain-based application. That way, you’ll always know who has an active opiate prescription, who assigned it, and when they got it. You can trust that log since we know no one can modify it, and even share it with other providers to prevent doctor shopping or prescribing opiates excessively.
Keyqo Security’s built an IT security product for protecting your systems from hackers, so we already know that blockchain and auditing go hand-in-hand. But what other auditing-related activities can we utilize the properties of blockchain for?
- Checking who has accessed or modified a specific patient record in your EHR
- Seeing if people are utilizing company resources in inappropriate ways
- Tracking billable hours or hours worked of your staff
- Prescription management – checking that your patient isn’t attempting to doctor shop or otherwise abuse the system
- Tracking insurance payments and reimbursements
- Many others
We touched on payment tracking above, but we wanted to call special attention to cryptocurrencies and why you may want to accept them at your practice. Cryptocurrencies, essentially, are forms of money on the blockchain. They have value because people want them and are willing to trade things of perceived value for them, for example you can see on a site like this that you can start buying Litecoin with Zipmex for real currency, therefore each cryptocurrency has a “real value” in other currencies. By far the most famous and legitimate cryptocurrency is Bitcoin (BTC); other legitimate cryptocurrencies include Litecoin (LTC), Ether (AKA Ethereum, ETH), Monero (XMR), and Dash (DASH). Although cryptocurrencies can of course be used to buy things, most of the interest in these unregulated currencies instead involves trading them for profit. With cryptocurrency trading apps like bitcoin trader soaring in popularity, it will be interesting to see what else the future holds for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. We’ll publish another article shortly going into further detail, but some benefits you can expect after accepting cryptocurrencies include: lower rates of fraud, much lower payment processor fees, easier taxes and payment accountability, and free publicity for your practice. Take a look at the Bitcoin link above and keep watching our blog for further details.
Interested in seeing how your practice can take advantage of blockchain technology? Let us know what you’re interested in and we’ll be in touch!