‘Storing medical records on blockchain could save NHS time and money’

9 Nov 18

Blockchain technology could ease the burden of administration on the NHS by storing patients’ medical data, a conference has heard.

The level of health data is growing all the time putting pressure on the health service, Navin Ramachandran from the University College Hospital told an event on distributed ledger technology in London today.

Eric Fish, from the non-profit Federation of State Medical Boards in the United States, told the Healthcare: unblocked 2018 conference today: “The NHS has patient identity management issues that could be helped with blockchain”.

Fish said that the technology, which stores details and transactions on a digital database, could be used to store people’s medical records for the NHS.  

But he warned: “There’s an institutional mindset that needs to change and getting any sort of IT development into government can be difficult”.

Eleonora Harwich, director of research at the Reform think-tank, said: “The efficiency gains can improve cost effectiveness.”

She added: “I see opportunity [for blockchain in the NHS] but there are basic things that need to be put right before blockhain can flourish”.

Ramachandran told the conference: “The amount of data is going to grow massively to the point where hospitals won’t be able to house it”.

He predicted the NHS in turn will seek to use third party organisations to manage its data, which he says will pose “a societal risk”.

Speaking at another session, Tory Thorpe, UK health and public sector lead at Accenture, highlighted the opportunity for a “decentralised, self-managed ID in the form of a digital wallet”.

She said that this could offer patients “more control, more transparency, more trust” and said that there is now a “demand from patients for a more seamless digital experience”.

Moving NHS legacy data onto blockchain could prove difficult, according to Harwich.  

“I see the future as more decentralised with patients being put at the centre,” said Ramachandran.

He added: “We now have different needs: an older population, more people want instant healthcare – that can only be delivered by a new model”.

A separate report from the Royal College of Physicians, out today, claimed that some face-to-face appointments could be replaced through telephone or video link appointments on Skype.

The research found that nearly a third (28%) of doctors thought that 10-20% of their follow up outpatient appointments could have been done using an alternative to face-to-face consultation.

Stephen Powis, NHS England medical director, said: “The time has come to grasps the nettle and use tech and other innovations to improve patients’ experience and care”.

In July, the CIPFA conference heard that the public sector lacks the policies to support blockchain.

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