Blockchain technology is greatly impacting the world beyond cryptocurrencies to disrupt industries that have long been stunted under obsolete technology and inefficient processes. One such industry where blockchain tech is creating waves in healthcare. The global healthcare blockchain market is expected to reach $829 million by 2023 at a whopping CAGR of 72.8%.
But the healthcare industry is being plagued by several issues related to the security, privacy, and interoperability of patient and other health-related data. Healthcare data breaches hit an all-time high in 2021 as 45 million people around the world were affected due to the breaches. Other issues such as drug traceability, fraudulent medical information, etc., can be solved with the help of a new model of information exchange built over blockchain technology.
For the uninitiated, a blockchain is a decentralized digital ledger that records transactions on a network of computers so that no record involved can be changed retroactively without affecting any subsequent blocks. The blockchain’s uniqueness lies in its capability to ensure the fidelity and security of a data record without the need for a trusted third party.
What are the Issues with the Healthcare Industry Today?
There are many major challenges in the healthcare sector that need to be addressed immediately. One of them is the provenance of medical goods to confirm their authenticity. Further, the healthcare industry suffers from poor data handling, the third leading cause of death in the USA in 2016. Issues like identity verification, complex registration processes, payment tracking problems, etc., affect every stakeholder in the healthcare industry, including doctors, medical staff, medical authorities, and patients. Blockchain technology can play a vital role in eliminating such issues in the healthcare industry and bringing about the much-needed revolution.
How is Blockchain Changing the Healthcare Industry?
Blockchain can be used in a variety of ways in the healthcare industry. Let’s look at the top six impacts of blockchain technology on the healthcare sector.
#Verification of Information
Blockchain technology is being used by healthcare organizations to verify a patient’s digital identity, genetic data, or prescription history. It helps to track the entire prescription process transparently. Blockchain, together with IoT, can be used to track congestion, freight direction, and speed of a prescription process eliminating the chance of data tampering.
Blockchain is ideal for security applications because it can keep an incorruptible, decentralized, and transparent log of all patient data. Furthermore, it also ensures the concealment of an individual’s identity or sensitive medical data behind its complex and secure algorithms.
We can take the case of Ever, which has taken the healthcare sector in Thailand by storm as it implemented the blockchain technology to verify medical data and establish a secure, immutable and decentralized network for managing all types of medical data.
#Transfer of Data
Blockchain technology can be used to transfer data such as information related to intellectual property rights, patient records, etc. Traditional information systems and data exchanges require a significant amount of time and money to transfer data from one place to another. Every year the healthcare sector spends a lot of funds to set up and manage databases, continuously troubleshoot issues, update field parameters, perform backup and recovery measures, and extract information for reporting purposes. Blockchain technology reduces the amount of time and money spent on data transformation.
For instance, Patientory has used blockchain to develop patient-centric applications and services. Patentory’s blockchain-based platform allows patients and doctors to exchange medical data in a much easier, more transparent, and more secure way.
The interoperability offered by blockchain allows patients to make their medical data easily accessible, have greater power over their personal information, and improve confidentiality. It also allows doctors to view detailed medical records to aid in diagnosis and develop a better and more precise operation.
The elimination of a single server removes the risk of single-point failure. When stored over a blockchain, data can be accessed by anyone and everyone across the globe, provided they have the right to access the database.
Research in the healthcare sector is mostly based on trust. However, according to research conducted in 2020, around 14% of clinical trials had false data among the total 526 clinical trials analyzed during the research. Blockchain technology can be used to address this issue of false results and data disintegration that do not correspond to the research purposes and objectives of a clinical trial.
Blockchain can provide instant access to a diverse set of standardized, identifiable clinical data that helps in fraud detection in clinical trials. The smart contracts of blockchain technology are the terms and conditions written over the blockchain. The use of smart contracts in clinical trials can be used to approve only those trials that match the terms and conditions of the research.
The use of public blockchain in clinical trials can also keep the data related to the trials publicly accessible and verifiable by anyone interested in reading the results. Further, blockchain technology can leverage standardized data to improve the quality and effectiveness of a clinical trial.
Blockchain has the potential to reduce the friction and costs associated with intermediaries. Once the operations in the healthcare sector begin being hosted over a blockchain, there is usually no need for frequent updates and troubleshooting. Recovery processes are also unnecessary because blockchain records are immutable and distributed across all participating users.
Furthermore, the transparency accorded by blockchain tech can eliminate the time and cost-consuming reporting activities. Using blockchain will allow the healthcare sector to have a comprehensive view of a patient’s medical records accessible from anywhere, at any time.
This will eliminate the cost of re-recording the clinical data of a patient. Many issues plaguing the healthcare system, such as report completion, theft, and even catastrophic data failure, can be resolved with the use of blockchain technology and hence ultimately reducing the overall cost of operation.
Blockchain technology can be widely used to manage the issues related to medical insurance. For instance, Curisium claims that 10% of the insurance claims are disputed. Curisium has successfully implemented blockchain technology to solve the issue of contract management and rebate negotiation to eliminate disputes in insurance claims.
Shared smart contracts can be used to manage medical insurance contracts for patients. Insurance providers can use blockchain technology not only to verify insurance claims but also to optimize insurance-related costs once the medical data is digitized and easily accessible.
While blockchain technology is not a panacea for all the issues in the healthcare sector, it does provide a promising and improved future in the healthcare sector by amplifying and supporting the integration of healthcare information and reducing the cost of operations via disintermediation. As the healthcare industry steadily progresses toward greater blockchain adoption, the potential use cases of blockchain in the industry will grow exponentially.