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The US health care system is fraught with all sorts of problems. Many of these have to do with consolidation in the market and scores of rent-seekers (those using legislation and regulation to maintain their market share. Those issues can probably be best resolved with fundamental changes within the halls of government. However, some of these problems can be addressed with new technology which offers solutions not even dreamed possible a few years ago. And the driver of much of this innovation rests on block chain technology.
Block Chains to the Rescue?
The basics of block chains have been discussed on this show where we explained the basic concept of what it is and how it works (here and here). We also looked at some helpful business applications such as decentralized finance and how that could unlock capital and make for opportunities for small medical practices. However, the real allure of block chain is whether it can solve some of the bigger problems in health care and bring about real structural change to the problems that plague doctors and patients alike: information sharing, supply chains, and payment processing.
Patient Information Sharing and Storage
Big Data is big money and there is no more valuable data set than patient health information. Companies pay millions of dollars for this data to develop health processes and businesses to manipulate the data to change patient behavior, physician behavior, and new businesses. However, the biggest problem is that the patient has no ownership of their information meaning that they cannot decide if the data is used or be compensated if it is. The possibilities of the block chain allow for patients to control their information and dictate those to companies – not the other way around.
Additionally, patients owning and securing their own data would allow for more accurate and safer transfer of their personal medical information when traveling between medical systems, EHRs, or even health providers within the same system. In essence, a patient could only transfer the information they want and deem important to a particular provider and no more. A quick example would be to just provide personal demographic information to an imaging center and not all their health history.