What Percentage Of Patient Medical Records Are Digital?
The vast majority of medical records are still stored in paper form. With growing digitization, many aspects of medical care have shifted to a digital platform. Physicians are able to access patient information from any location at any time, there is less chance of data entry errors, and there are numerous healthcare applications that make the process more efficient.
However, not all medical records have been fully incorporated into the digital sphere. There are still several barriers to entry for healthcare providers, especially smaller practices or those in less developed areas. In order to fully enter the 21st century and take advantage of all the benefits that digitalization has to offer, some things need to change. The following are some of the biggest challenges facing medical records today and how blockchain technology could solve them.
Transparency Is Key
As the world becomes more digitized, more and more industries struggle with maintaining transparency while also being on the cutting edge of technology. Healthcare is no different, and the issue of transparency permeates every aspect of medical care. Before a patient can be considered for a procedure or medication, they must provide a lot of personal information about themselves. This includes things like their address, phone number, previous medical history, and current medication. Additionally, after their procedure or medication is administered, the patient must continue to provide regular feedback about their condition. This level of transparency is not only necessary for good healthcare, but is also critical to maintaining public trust in the medical industry.
Unfortunately, a lot of the information that healthcare providers need to keep track of is not fully digital. There are still several paper-based systems in use today that were designed in the 20th century and do not integrate well with the digital age. During an outbreak of COVID-19, this was notably problematic as paper records were destroyed and new systems had to be created in short order. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the entire world population today as the spread of the virus was largely contained by the end of March 2020. Despite this, the world of medicine is still largely restricted to paper documentation as the following quote from the New England Journal of Medicine illustrates:
“During the SARS outbreak of 04, the lack of a digital platform for medication administration and poor Internet connection speeds in hospitals limited the ways in which healthcare providers could provide optimal patient care. In the future, as healthcare providers strive to provide safe and quality care during the COVID-19 pandemic, robust digital platforms for medication administration and clinical trials will be necessary.”
Security And Confidentiality
The confidentiality of medical records is also a big issue today, especially as the entire world becomes more and more interconnected. With the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), almost every aspect of a patient’s lives can be tracked and monitored. This means that even if they are not identified as a threat to public health, their personal details could still be used against them in a way that compromises their safety and well-being. Healthcare providers must ensure that the confidentiality of their patients’ records is protected and that they are only disclosed to the people who need to know in a way that ensures that the patient’s identity is not revealed. The following are just a few of the ways in which IoT technology has created security threats for medical records:
- Wearable tech
- Algorithms for smart homes
- Telehealth and digital health records
- Big Data and the IoT
- IoT devices for healthcare
- Smart healthcare and the Internet of Medical things (IMT)
- Internet Security
- Hacking and cybersecurity
- Privacy and data protection
- Encryption and digital signatures
- Cloud computing and the Healthcare Big Data Cloud
- Smart Contracts
- Blockchain and the Decentralized Ledger
- DLT and IOTA
- Internet and network security for healthcare
The sheer volume of data that healthcare providers have to store and manage is another major issue. The entire medical history of a patient must be stored somewhere, and as more and more data is being created, it becomes even more critical to have a secure and confidential location for this information. Fortunately, blockchain technology allows for the creation of secure, decentralized registries that automatically update as new information is added. Additionally, the entire database is publicly available, meaning that anyone with access to the Internet can view the entirety of the information, but identity is always protected.
Efficiency, or the ability to provide optimal care at the lowest possible cost, is another major issue that many industries, including healthcare, face. Healthcare providers must continue to work towards improving the efficiency of the entire healthcare system by implementing new technology and making best use of the resources available to them. The following are some of the areas where healthcare providers can improve efficiency:
- Implementing new technology
- Using existing technology more efficiently
- Reducing unnecessary testing and procedures
- Accessing healthcare relevant information efficiently
- Using health data to provide more effective care
- Reducing costly medication errors and hospital outbreaks
- Reducing healthcare resource utilization and costs
- Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning
- Healthcare Big Data and Analytics
- Blockchain Technology And The Future Of Healthcare
While the benefits of transparency, security, and confidentiality are all extremely important, healthcare providers must still ensure that the efficiency of the system is not compromised. This is especially important today as the entire world becomes more and more digitized and as the resources that healthcare providers have to work with are more limited. The development of more streamlined processes and the use of technology should not come at the expense of cutting corners or making unsafe decisions. The following are some of the ways that healthcare providers can ensure that efficiency is not compromised while also implementing more technological advancements:
- Ethical Hacking and Penetration Testing
- Security In The Cloud – A Risk Analysis
- The Top 8 Technologies That Will Define 2021
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- How to Choose a Data Protection Strategy For Your Business
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- Guide to Data Security in the Healthcare Industry
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- Medical Records Are Going Digital! Here’s How to Keep Your Patients Coming Back For More
A Fully Distributed And Autonomous System
The ability to provide the best possible care to patients fully autonomous and without any intermediaries is yet another advantage that comes with the digitization of medical records. During the pandemic, several industries, including healthcare, have shifted gears towards a more distributed model as companies and organizations need to be closer to their customers and work with smaller teams to meet the demands of the industry and individual businesses.
Blockchain technology allows for the creation of fully distributed, autonomous healthcare communities where all participants have equal status and no one can prevent the others from accessing information or engaging in transactions. The following are some of the areas where this type of system would excel:
- Access to healthcare information
- Reduced Healthcare Costs
- Improved Patient Care
- Efficient use of healthcare resources
- Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning
- Secure, Efficient, And Confidential Record Keeping
- A Distributed Healthcare Ecosystem
- Founding A New Healthcare Practice Or Business
- Getting Started In The Healthcare Industry
The rise of the sharing economy has increased the demand for peer-to-peer healthcare, and several startups, including SaaS, have emerged to meet this demand. These companies allow for individuals to securely share medical records with each other, creating a faster, more efficient way for healthcare providers to stay connected and provide optimal patient care. Ultimately, as more and more industries shift towards a more digital model, the way we collect, store, and share information will evolve to fit the new technological reality.