Maybe we should put health records on the blockchain, Galvan says
More than 250,000 people die due to medical error in the US every year, Johns Hopkins University estimated in 2016, most of these due to systemic problems, including poorly coordinated care.
Patient records have typically been stored by a person’s primary care provider. If that patient has a medical emergency in an area where that primary care provider can be accessed, those records can be utilized. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. For example, if a person moves across the country or goes on vacation and is in a car accident, their records at home can’t be easily accessed.
If a doctor doesn’t have access to past injuries, illnesses, or allergies, that could mean the difference between life and death. One way to solve that? Put medical records on the blockchain.
In October of last year, the US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Information Security, put out a report on the possible uses of blockchain in the healthcare world. If electronic health records were to be stored on a blockchain, it stated, this could create a “comprehensive, single source for accurate medical records” that provides insurers with direct access to confirmed healthcare services while helping push forward medical analytics advancements.
That report stated that medical data wouldn’t technically have to be placed on the blockchain, but rather “blockchain-based medical record systems can be linked to existing medical record software and act as an overarching, single view of a patient’s record.”
Galvan, which has its primary offices in Lehi, is one company focused on linking the healthcare and blockchain worlds. Galvan is working to establish itself as a key global source of medical information, from allowing patients to manage and store their personal medical records to showing patients “which treatments are most effective based on outcomes.”
Galvan CEO Adam Sharp says the current health records system process is “clunky.” A graduate of the University of Utah School of Medicine, Sharp says that if medical information changes and a patient develops a new allergy or medical condition outside their primary care provider, that patient would need to go through their primary care provider to change their record.
While physicians are vital to making diagnoses, each person’s individual medical record should belong to that person, Sharp says.
"More than 250,000 people die due to medical error in the US every year."
“It’s my information. It’s my record. I should have control of it and work with others that can help me to maintain it,” Sharp says. “It’s the way it was always intended, it’s just not been developed in that way.”
With blockchain technology comes the opportunity to incentivize health with cryptocurrency token rewards. Galvan is also working on a health and fitness app that would connect with people’s devices such as smartwatches to reward users with Galvan’s IZE token for meeting the CDC’s recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week. That app is projected to launch later this year.
Blockchain and healthcare technology are constantly evolving, and putting billions of medical records on a blockchain won’t happen overnight.
In 2016, a white paper from business services company Deloitte stated that blockchain technology holds promise for numerous healthcare upgrades, but it’s not a fix that can be immediately applied. However, small steps are already happening.
Researchers at the National University of Singapore published a report in last December’s issue of the medical journal The Lance saying that the Covid pandemic accelerated the need for blockchain in healthcare.
“Although widespread adoption of blockchain technology in health care might still be limited by various [organizational], technological, and governance barriers, the Covid pandemic has clearly accentuated the need for secure, decentralized, multipurpose platforms for coordination of large-scale transfer of sensitive information, such as contact tracing, vaccination status monitoring, and Covid health certificate issuance,” they wrote.
Sharp says that while the healthcare industry is already starting to adopt blockchain technology, though he believes it will be five to 10 years before it is commonplace.
“We won’t solve all problems. We still need good physicians, we still need hospitals,” he says. “But the reality of the matter is that this provides a tool, a resource, and a strategy that is far more trustworthy than the one that currently exists, and that will take time.”