Digital technology has changed the way we live in general. It touches upon every sphere of our professional, social, and personal lives greatly. Currently, digital technology is penetrating the most stable and conservative societal institutions, like government and public health. Various institutions face the need to keep up with the technological progress. In this post, we will look into the perspectives of blockchain technology in healthcare.
Current State of Healthcare System
It is hardly possible to overestimate the importance of the healthcare industry. The life of every person literally depends on its smooth and trouble-free performance. Over the last year, the healthcare system was shifting to a more customer-centered approach. It means that the industry focuses on facilities and treatment, affordable for the general public. The existing solutions, protocols, and processes make the transition slow. Thus, high-quality healthcare is not accessible for everyone who needs it.
Patient data and information handling remain a major issue in the healthcare sector nowadays. The currently used solutions cannot grant a secure and error-free data record, transition and access at all times. Due to this fact, very often the doctor and the patient cannot access the needed medical information about the patient in a critical situation.
Unfortunately, sometimes the health and life of a person depend on quick actions within minutes or even seconds. Provided that medical information data handling and exchange are quick, flawless and accessible at all times, the healthcare system would be able to facilitate their services greatly. Blockchain technology in healthcare is a widely discussed topic nowadays, as it can potentially solve a lot of issues the sector is dealing with.
Perspectives of Blockchain in Healthcare
One of the technologies that can potentially change the position of affairs for the better is blockchain. Blockchain can be a solution for issues like inefficient data handling, transfer, transparency, and security.
Blockchain technology can revolutionize the following aspects of healthcare:
- Management of medical records (transmitting medical data to the blockchain will serve as proof of data security and stability. Blockchain can ensure the integrity of data as well
- Patient consent management (different states and countries have different consent regulations and privacy policies; blockchain can record the consent of every given patient and allow/forbid the use of certain data consequently)
- Management of micropayments (i.e. healthcare plan rewards)
- Elimination of insurance fraud (dishonest service providers and receivers will no longer be able to submit false claims to receive insurance benefits)
- Boost the creation of a single global medical information database (currently, medical institutions perform drug testing and clinical trials locally)
- Enable security in pharma supply chain (prescription drugs are consistently stolen and sold illegally, the losses of pharma industry reach $200 billion annually)
As you can see, there is a lot of work for blockchain in healthcare. Both patients and service providers can benefit greatly from the intelligent incorporation of this technology. The most exciting opportunity this technology offers is probably the merging of patient’s data into one secure system that can be safely accessed by authorized people at all times and circumstances. Blockchain can cope with the task of uniting all the patient data and keeping it secure, unchanged and error-free.
Decentralization of Medical Data
Blockchain can potentially solve the problem of medical data implosion and help make it decentralized. Currently, all patient data is typically stored at the medical institution a given patient attends. For example, if you have been going to the same physician in New York for over twenty years, they and the clinic the doctor works at would store your medical record over this time. If you go to Tulsa for a weekend and need to see a doctor there for any health condition, they will not know anything about your medical history.
In a perfect situation, you and your family members can be there to tell them the needed information about your chronic illnesses, allergies, or prescription drug use, and so on. However, what if you’re there alone and unconscious? That can bring a situation deadlock.
The two issues from the example are patient identification and information blocking. Blockchain can potentially solve both of them.
Now, wouldn’t it be better, if all the patient data, medical history, prescription records, and health information were stored in one virtual place, secured by blockchain technology? It wouldn’t take long to access such data, and you could take it with you everywhere you go without having to actually take it physically and worrying about its safety, credibility, and accessibility.
Spokes in the Wheels of Blockchain
Some experts aren’t so excited about the implementation of blockchain in healthcare. They say that it can take between ten and fifteen years until the system can work well. The transition to the new technology cannot be smooth due to a wide range of factors.
Major factors that slow down blockchain implementation in healthcare are as follows:
- The complex process of blockchain integration into medical data handling
- Local government regulations, legacies, and policies
- Cultural obstacles
Current Blockchain Projects in Healthcare
Blockchain has already been trying to penetrate the healthcare sector. There is a large number of blockchain-based healthcare startups. The most perspective and interesting ones are as follows:
- ConnectingCare. This is an Australian healthcare project that provides secure messaging for the hospital, home, and other health providers. This service allows different healthcare organizations and representatives access the same medical data about their shared patients.
- MedRec. This is a service that allows saving the family medical history with the help of blockchain.
- Robomed Network. This blockchain-based project is a network that aims at uniting medical professionals and their patients. Robomed Network uses smart contracts technology.
New healthcare blockchain startups emerge all the time, and it’s not surprising taking into consideration the abundance of areas that require facilitation in healthcare.
Blockchain as a service is a very promising solution that can potentially bring the healthcare sector to the next level. This technology can be applied in many aspects of healthcare, facilitating its processes, data handling, and overall performance.
Unfortunately, the healthcare sector as a whole is developing at a slower pace than needed. For example, hospitals operate nearly the same way now as they did twenty years ago. At the same time, many other spheres of life have changed dramatically to meet the demands and respond to the challenges of a new digital age.
The implementation of blockchain technology into various healthcare processes can impact the industry positively. It can potentially help healthcare develop faster and facilitate its services, making them more patient-oriented, secure, and decentralized. For now, the incorporation of blockchain technology looks like the most logical step for the healthcare sector.