Heath records firm EHR Data is working on a “real-time single source of truth” for opioid prescriptions in the United States. The company, which uses the Bitcoin network to process its data, says the improvement will assist those fighting the current opioid crisis, and help save people’s lives.
Eventually the solution will enable auditable records for all prescriptions. However the opioid crisis is one of America’s most pressing health issues, causing over 70,000 deaths in 2019. The situation is worsening thanks to public health and economic problems caused by the COVID-19 epidemic.
In a company update for September 2020, EHR Data said it is also in the testing phase of building a mobile application, in partnership with nChain. nChain is developing the app, and EHR Data is creating the APIs that will give patients access to, and control of, their private health records.
EHR Data has stressed the need for patients to “own their own data.” Currently available health apps, it says, may give you easy access to your records but it’s stored and owned by the company providing the app (or device that records it). This data can then be sold to third-party data brokers who analyze it or package it for other uses. Often, this information is combined with other publicly available data sources from marriage licenses to vehicle registration and even retail purchases and social media. This builds a personal data dossier that you never see or have access to, or have any control over how it’s used.
“We want to thank you for your continued support,” EHR Data said.
“Together, we can change the healthcare landscape, curb opioid abuse, and empower you and those you love to take control of your health data.”
Auditable health records on the Bitcoin blockchain
One problem that has permitted the opioid problem to grow in the U.S. is not keeping proper track of how many prescriptions are being issued. Knowing this, and noticing regions that stand out for a large or excessive number of prescriptions, could allow others to take action.
EHR Data said the U.S. public health crisis resulting from opioid overdoses had worsened in 2019 and 2020, following a decrease in deaths in 2018. In 2019 they hit a record high at 70,980 deaths, and the worsening situation in 2020 is most likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and national responses to it.
The “opioid epidemic” or “opioid crisis” are the blanket terms for an alarming number of deaths from natural and synthetic opioid drugs available in the U.S.—via prescription and black/grey drug markets. The figures include deaths from illegal drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine, but the majority of instances result from synthetic pharmaceutical opioids like fentanyl.
Overdoses are more common in bad economic times, which the COVID-19 response has certainly created. Add to that the anxiety and uncertainty about employment, education, and the shape of society in general, and it gets worse. With hospitals clearing space for COVID-19 patients, house lockdowns, and either discouragement or unwillingness to go out, many aren’t seeking medical treatment for other conditions—including opioid addiction and other illnesses or injuries resulting from it. Funding has also been diverted from addiction-related assistance programs that could have helped patients.
EHR Data announced in February it would be using the Bitcoin SV (BSV) blockchain as a platform to process its data and on which to build future services. Vital health information processed and stored this way is verifiable years into the future, and access can be tiered to keep some records private, and others public. In the case of opioid pharmaceutical prescriptions, it would be useful to know exactly how many prescriptions are being written and where, while keeping information about who the drugs were prescribed to, secret.
Only the Bitcoin network has the ability and scalability to handle this kind of data, and at a reasonable price. While other blockchains have been proposed and built over the years to record health and other personal records, Bitcoin does it on a protocol that works and is guaranteed to remain unchanged into the future.
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