Blockchain technology could have many exciting applications in radiology and also facilitate the development of artificial intelligence algorithms. But key hurdles remain in the way of adoption of the technology, said Dr. Woojin Kim, who recently spoke in a webinar held by the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine.
Widely known for its role as the technology supporting cryptocurrencies, blockchain enables the creation of an immutable ledger and databases in decentralized and distributed networks. Although blockchain offers the potential to benefit radiology, many limitations and challenges first need to be overcome, according to Kim.
“As this emerging technology becomes more widely adopted and the technology improves, it will become important for the radiology professionals to be more familiar with this technology and, more importantly, understand when to use this technology and when not to,” said Kim, who is chief medical information officer at Nuance Communications.
Kim said that blockchain has a number of potential radiology applications:
- Medical records: Blockchain allows for patient-centric access and control of health data, allowing all authorized personnel to have access to information such as a contrast agent allergy, for example. Blockchain technology would give control of health records back to patients, while maintaining one uniform record that’s not siloed in many different places, Kim said.
- Image sharing and teleradiology: Similarly, blockchain could enable patients to determine who has access to their images, Kim said.
- Claims and billing: Blockchain could be used in radiology to reduce fraud, speed up claims, and perhaps even facilitate preauthorization processes, he said.
- Supply chain management: Blockchain could be used to track and manage products in the radiology department, as well as to store inspections and maintenance records for imaging equipment.
- Credentialing: Blockchain could save time and money for radiologists in the currently arduous process of credentialing, according to Kim. If requested, radiologists could simply grant a hospital or medical board access to their records, including medical education history, continuing medical education (CME), and medicolegal records.
- Research and clinical trials: Blockchain could also facilitate research and clinical trials in radiology by enabling, for example, patients to share their images with researchers.