Blockchain-managed healthcare records? Patients love it, physicians are skeptical

Blockchain technology is starting to gain popularity in the healthcare industry due to its ability to keep data safe and secure. So what do physicians and patients think about this growing trend? The team behind a recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research aimed to answer that very question.

“According to expectancy theory, which is a widely used theory of human motivation in the field of psychology, medical doctors and patients are more likely to use blockchain technology when they hold positive attitudes toward it, and they are less likely to use it when they hold negative attitudes toward it,” wrote lead author Yong Sauk Hau, PhD, Yeungnam University in South Korea, and colleagues. “In this regard, medical doctors’ and patients’ attitudes are salient factors that must be examined in research studies on the application of blockchain technology to medical data management because a person’s attitude toward using a new information technology is indicative of their likelihood of using it.”

The researchers gathered survey responses from 90 physicians and 90 patients, asking each participant about the use of blockchain for managing and distributing medical information. Responses were rated on a scale from one to seven, with a one representing the most negative answer and a seven representing the most possible answer.

Overall, the researchers observed, physicians had “significantly more negative attitudes than patients across all items.” For physicians, attitudes ranged from a mean score of 3.7 to a mean score of 5.0. For patients, the range was 6.3-6.8.

The most negative physician response, a mean score of 3.7, was for the following statement: “blockchain technology prohibits anyone from revising a medical chart without patient consent once it has been created by a medical doctor.” The second most negative physician response, a mean score of 3.9, was for this statement: “unlike traditional methods of medical data management, which bestow complete control over medical information to the hospital, blockchain technology allows a patient to choose the extent to which their medical information is stored, distributed, and managed.”

These responses, the authors explained, highlight that blockchain technology may be viewed as “disadvantageous to medical doctors” or allow “patients to have complete control over their medical data.”

Another key takeaway from the study was that some physicians—specifically those who are self-employed—may worry that the use of blockchain technology will lower their income.”

“More specifically, patients may decline undergoing a medical examination that has been recommended by a smaller clinic if they have already undergone similar examinations in a larger hospital, even when such examinations are required to make an accurate medical diagnosis,” the authors wrote.

Patients, meanwhile, “hold very favorable attitudes toward the use of blockchain technology.” They appreciate the idea of gaining control over their own records and the potential of health savings that could come with a reduction in “redundant” examinations.