Patient Directed Health Data Exchange on The Blockchain

Posted on September 7, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve long been friends with Dr. Tom Giannulli who most of you will probably have known as the CMO of Kareo. I first met Dr. Tom back when he created what I would call the first iPad optimized EHR interface back when Dr. Tom was at Epocrates and before they sold that EHR to Kareo. Needless to say, Dr. Tom is the kind of guy that likes to sit on the cutting edge of technology and how it applies to healthcare. So, it was no surprise to me when he came to me with his patient directed health data exchange called PatientDirected.io which is built on the blockchain.

While a lot of people talk about blockchain and theories about how blockchain could help healthcare, a lot of what people were doing was just talk. What I like about Dr. Tom and PatientDirected.io is that they just put out a video demo of a patient chart being requested from Kareo by the patient and then the patient sending that chart to Epic. Check it out to see what I mean:

Many of you that watch this demo might be asking. How is this on the blockchain? That’s one of the things that many people don’t understand about blockchain. If it’s done right, you won’t know anything about the blockchain. However, the blockchain can do things like creating smart contracts with providers which can create trusted connections. The blockchain is distributed, so your data isn’t stored on a central server that’s owned and controlled by PatientDirected.io. Basically, blockchain has a number of benefits, but it’s the “Intel Inside” and so it’s not something you should see as an end user, but it could provide some great benefits.

I also like that PatientDirected.io isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. They’re using trusted third party applications like Verato to handle their master patient index and for verifying patients identity. There’s a lot more to explore when it comes to identity management, but it’s smart to work with companies that are doing this all across healthcare.

I was also impressed with the detailed sharing permissions that were available in PatientDirected.io. At first glance, a part of me wonders if it’s too complex for most patients. However, as long as the options are there, the interface can adapt to allow for specific patient preferences when it comes to data sharing. Of course, it’s nice that all of the sharing of this data will be tracked on the blockchain.

The key to all of this working for me is the integration with the EHR vendor. It looks like it’s using Direct to handle the messaging to the EHR vendor and back. This is good because I believe all certified EHR (which is pretty much all of them) have direct messaging built in. Some have integrated it better than others, but they all have this capability. My big concern with it though is whether what’s being shared by EHR vendors using Direct is enough data. And will that data that gets sent from one EHR to another appear in a format that’s useful to the receiving physician? If it’s not, then it doesn’t solve much of anything. Plus, I wonder what happens when a doctor gets a record request and doesn’t respond. This is especially true for EHR vendors who haven’t integrated Direct into the core EHR workflow. Will this take a culture change to not leave patients waiting for records that will never come?

As you could imagine, PatientDirected.io has an ICO offering on StartEngine.com. Looks like it just got started, but there’s an opportunity to buy their tokens if you’re interested and believe they’re on to something special.

I think there is a space for a patient directed health information exchange assuming we can make the exchange of information between disparate providers very simple. There are still some challenges for patients when it comes to getting access to their health information, but the law is clear that patients should have access to their health information. Now we just need the user interfaces to be as simple as clicking a button like is demonstrated in the video above and we’ll see much more patient directed health information exchange.