- Walmart announced that it has been awarded a patent that will store customers EHRs on a healthcare blockchain that can be accessed via a wearable device. This patent is another example of large corporations seeing the value of medical technology and investing in health IT infrastructure technology.
Walmart does not plan on entering into the medical field and treating patients themselves, but the technology intends to provide a valuable service to customers if they find themselves in dangerous situations.
Storing a patient’s EHR on a wearable device will allow first responders to gain access to vital patient data in the event that the patient is unresponsive or unable to communicate. First responders gaining access to this information right away could potentially save a life.
Walmart specifies that a patient’s entire medial record will not be available, just an emergency specific file containing the necessary information such as blood type, allergies, or any preexisting conditions.
“According to the patent, the system will allow medical care personnel to be fully briefed on a patient’s vital medical records as well as medical information before the patient arrives at a particular facility,” CCN reported. “This will not only prove time-saving but also potentially life-saving.”
The patent, Obtaining a Medical Record Stored on a Blockchain from a Wearable Device, is made up of three devices. The wearable itself, which acts as local storage, a biometric scanner to identify the patient’s identity, and a radio-frequency identification (RFID) scanner that will scan the wearable.
“At the scene of an emergency, the Walmart patent envisions first responders scanning the patient’s wearable device using the RFID scanner,” explained CCN. “They are then able to get an encrypted private key as well as the public key associated with the particular patient to whom they are attending.”
The biometric scan could use facial recognition, a finger print, or an iris. Once a biometric feature us scanned and verified, the patient or first responder will have access to the record via the blockchain database.
The patent also hopes to ease interoperability issues in the event of an emergency. If a patient in critical condition needs to be moved from one healthcare facility to another, ideally the patent will allow medical professionals to exchange the patient’s vital information easily.
Walmart isn’t the only large corporation to recently be awarded patents concerning EHRs. Google, Microsoft, and Apple have all been awarded patents to simplify EHRs and data exchange among healthcare organizations.
Google’s patents include many focused on its artificial intelligence (AI) technology DeepMind and its healthcare disease and research entity Verily.
Apple has filed over 50 patents that will allow the iPhone to be used as a medical device to track patient health.
Microsoft’s patents include expanding on its AI technology to help monitor chronic disease, genomics processing, healthcare application development, and collaboration tools.
These large companies see the value in building healthcare technology. It will be more common for organizations to have technology from these companies in their health IT infrastructure.
While Walmart isn’t considered a tech company, the retail giant has the reach to potentially make a product like this wide-spread enough that it becomes a staple in many patient’s lives.
A company like Walmart has the ability and connections to produce these wearable devices on a large scale and can potentially work with tech companies to develop the digital aspects of the scanners and the blockchain database.
Introducing such a large retail company into the EHR and wearable space can help promote the devices. If patients are able to see these devices as obtainable and affordable they may be more likely to purchase and wear them. A retailer like Walmart can potentially push medical wearables into the mainstream.