How Patientory uses blockchain to keep data secure and help connect patients

From digitizing patient records to making telehealth possible, the development of exciting new technology continues to transform the healthcare industry. Yet an uptick in the number of data breaches illustrates greater risk associated with the progress made. Dubbed as the "Facebook for healthcare," Atlanta-based Patientory is enhancing cybersecurity by changing the way patients securely manage their health history and interact with their care team.

This content is sponsored by Patientory.

The company was founded as part of the inaugural class of the Boomtown Health-Tech Accelerator in Boulder, Colo., in spring 2016. Through its connection with the accelerator, Patientory collaborates with Denver-based Colorado Permanente Medical Group, which is part of the Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente system.

Despite its recent beginnings, the company's roots run deep. Patientory Founder and CEO Chrissa McFarlane has 10 years of experience in healthcare. "Being part of the [healthcare] system, we were frustrated with the hassle of not having the right people to communicate with," she says. "We came up with Patientory using aspects of the industry that we knew would make the patient experience more positive and help physicians make their population more manageable."

Patientory users create an individual profile on the company's mobile app. Users' medical information is stored in the secure, HIPAA-compliant blockchain platform, which then allows them to connect with other patients who have similar health issues or concerns, their physicians and their care team. Patients can then actively learn more about their overall health and wellbeing. In addition, patient and clinician users can engage Patientory's platform to better manage the patient's care across multiple teams, both inside and outside of the hospital. Patientory's technology is compatible with a number of EHR systems, including Epic, Cerner, Allscripts and Meditech.

The tool's capabilities yield numerous positive benefits to both patients and their providers. "We're really a service for hospitals," Ms. McFarlane says.

1. Patientory helps strengthen cybersecurity
The need to protect patients' medical and personal information is clear. On average, one health data breach occurred per day in 2016, according to analysis from the Protenus Breach Barometer.

Unlike EHRs, which are vulnerable to hacks, Patientory utilizes blockchain technology — a permanent record of online exchanges. Blockchain is managed by distributing nodes, each of which contains a copy of the file and requires users to agree to changes. The more nodes there are in the chain, the stronger the base is. This setup makes blockchain less susceptible to hacking.

Blockchain's primary strengths, particularly in the healthcare sector, are grounded in its security and how it makes HIPAA compliance feasible for patients and providers. From ensuring the confidentiality of patients' electronic health information to identifying security threats and protecting against disclosures, Patientory's use of blockchain technology helps affiliated healthcare organizations achieve zero data breaches. It achieves HIPAA Security Rules by maintaining a security compliance team, protecting relevant electronic systems and using encryption to control data access.

"One of our main initiatives is zero breaches," says Ms. McFarlane. "From the hospital side, Patientory easily gives providers access to patient information and the ability to transfer it to other care providers."

Although blockchain originated in the finance industry, it's now assisting the healthcare sector with building on cybersecurity and moving forward with organizational goals under value-based reimbursement. "Even with HIPAA, we're still lagging behind [in terms of cybersecurity]," Ms. McFarlane says. "In order to achieve those goals, we're moving in on the value-based initiatives that CMS and the government are pushing, which are about technology and innovation."

2. Connecting the entire care team
Instead of struggling to coordinate care between numerous physicians, the Patientory app makes it easy for a patient's care team to connect and share data. Physicians and specialists treating the same patient can log in to Patientory and view the patient's entire care journey, including medications and health history. Additionally, an individual patient can log in to Patientory and communicate with all of his or her physicians at once.

"When you have a system where the hospital and all the practitioners caring for that individual are linked together, everybody gets [data] in real time," says Frenesa Hall, MD, medical director for Principal Financial Group and Patientory investor.

Coordination of care is particularly important among patients with chronic conditions who have dozens of physicians, specialists and subspecialists. Unsurprisingly, care coordination between this diverse team grows complicated, and patients are often left carrying their information from physician to physician by hand. "Patientory keeps a repository of [the patient's information]," says Richard DiMonda, an advisor to Patientory and lead advisor for the Technological Innovation: Generating Economic Results (TI:GER) program, a collaboration of Georgia's leading research universities: Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, both in Atlanta. "You go to a new physician and they can dive into your history. It greatly reduces the time it takes for patients to move."

In addition, because patients with chronic conditions frequently require numerous tests, duplicative tests, screenings or blood work are common and costly. Patientory's ability to coordinate care greatly reduces the likelihood of unnecessary and wasteful services. Since the whole care team can view a patient's health history, providers are much less likely to rerun tests. "I see millions of dollars in savings by reducing duplication, along with improving patient compliance with medication regimens and reducing risk of medication issues," says Dr. Hall.

3. Value-based care initiatives and patient engagement
As the healthcare industry introduces more value- and outcomes-based reimbursement models, Patientory can help hospitals achieve the performance required under value-based payment contracts by working toward interoperability and keeping protected health information safe. "[Patientory is] a driver for value-based care," says Ms. McFarlane. "It's taking value-based initiatives and transforming them into a holistic patient experience."

Patientory puts a different spin on the traditional healthcare model by giving patients more power in their care journey. They can use Patientory to better manage their health maintenance, appointments and care plan after they leave the hospital. This form of patient engagement is not yet widely enacted by hospitals and health systems. "If the patient is managing what's going on with their care and it results in better outcomes, the hospital will benefit from that as well," says Mr. DiMonda.

Under value-based reimbursement, providers whose care yields positive patient outcomes gain maximum reimbursement. By utilizing Patientory's app, physicians can better communicate with patients, thereby positioning themselves to provide high-quality care, address disruptions to the care plan before they turn costly and ultimately produce the best possible outcomes.

4. Reducing readmission rates and penalties
As part of the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, CMS withholds up to 3 percent of Medicare reimbursement to hospitals that record higher-than-expected 30-day readmission rates. In fiscal year 2017, Medicare will reduce reimbursements for 2,597 hospitals due to readmissions penalties.

To help hospitals reduce readmission rates, Patientory better manages the post-discharge care of patients. "Patientory gives the patient and caregiver an application on their phone that will help them better implement the post-operative procedure guidelines that the hospital is going to be creating," says Mr. DiMonda.

For example, it's imperative that patients with congestive heart failure closely monitor their weight. Using Patientory, providers can check in on heart failure patients and keep an eye on their weight even after they leave the hospital. Non-chronically ill patients can also benefit by receiving reminders to check in with their physician via Patientory.

Looking ahead
The time is ripe for a change in healthcare technology. Patients and providers alike need a safe way to track medical history and coordinate care without fear of data breaches. Patientory's platform and its use of blockchain, specifically, give it an edge. "It'll take much longer to see outcomes for some of the other products on the market, not only for the hospital but also for the actual patients," says Ms. McFarlane. "You need the technology and responsibility to realize the outcomes." As the industry moves forward, Patientory is keeping the focus on the patient by increasing security measures and working to connect all the players of the healthcare team — including the patient. 

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