BitIRA is happy to announce that we have chosen a winner for the inaugural BitIRA U Scholarship of $1,000! The purpose of the scholarship was for college students (and those in their final year of high school) to think about and share their vision of how blockchain and cryptocurrency technology will change the world in the next 20 years. The winner of the summer 2018 Bi-Annual BitIRA U Scholarship is Morgan Gilmour, a medical student at the Chicago Medical School of Rosalind Franklin University. Below is the essay Morgan submitted about the potential of blockchain to change the medical field in the near future:
“We don’t have anything. Order everything and hope she doesn’t deliver before it’s all back—we’re flying blind,” my senior resident told a nurse regarding my 18-year-old pregnant patient. She came to our hospital during my third year OB/GYN rotation in active labor. She told us another clinic had tested her for “some stuff, but I don’t remember the results.” She also said she had a “hematoma” with a previous pregnancy, but wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. With so few details, we didn’t know what she meant, either. Because the electronic medical record (EMR) system in my hospital and her clinic did not communicate, there was no way to access the information quickly enough. We ordered a litany of expensive tests for this impoverished teen. We relied on the phone and fax machine to gather data. We then spent hours retyping her information in our own system. In the next 20 years, blockchain will replace this antiquated, redundant system and the result will be lower cost, higher quality care.
In today’s healthcare setting, doctors’ time is crushed under the weight of administrative tasks, medical errors take the life of almost 100,000 people per year, and the primary cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States is unpaid medical bills. The massive expanse of incompatible EMR systems has introduced dangerous, costly errors as information is typed and retyped into rival programs. Blockchain introduces a single block of data and keeps a record of edits to information. With a blockchain EMR, we would have had my 18-year-old pregnant patient’s labs and medical history at our fingertips. We would have had more time to comfort this teenage patient as she prepared to deliver a baby. Adopting blockchain will increase the quality of care and reduce soaring costs by eliminating redundancy.
Blockchain relies on the free market to provide a system with high fidelity. Hospitals will voluntarily adopt a safely encrypted blockchain design like MedRec, an MIT system in development. This system provides doctors, insurance companies, and patients with access to highly accurate information that comes with its own audit trail. Blockchain needs no government mandate or expensive third party manager. Administrators will flock to its ease of use, high integrity of data, and low administrative costs.
I have a personal desire to implement high quality blockchain systems. During my four years as a nuclear submarine engineer, I worked on quality improvement projects and saw first-hand how errorproofing innovations save sailors’ lives. Also, as a patient, a preventable clerical error led to an erroneous $93,000 bill. I didn’t even have $93,000 in medical school loan debt! My personal experiences convince me that error proofing healthcare systems will protect life, limb, and wallet.
My 18-year-old patient spent less time in labor than we spent charting. My $93,000 bill only disappeared after I spent hours on the phone with customer service. Innovations like blockchain will give the gift of time, money, and the quality of care to the world. In the next 20 years, I imagine an attending physician sitting at the bedside of a distressed patient. Holding her hand, he takes the time she needs to gently and confidently answer her questions, provide her with support, and heal her spirit. This moment is truly the central purpose of medicine, and can be made possible as we embrace innovation and invention like blockchain medical records.
Note: The BitIRA U Scholarship is awarded twice a year (Summer and Winter). The next award will be Winter 2019, and students are encouraged to visit the BitIRA U Scholarship webpage to learn more about the opportunity and apply.