How Blockchain will Transform Healthcare?

Blockchain technology, the technology underpinning bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies continues to gain a lot of popularity and traction. This emerging technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we transact, record and verify transactions. Promising an efficient, secure and cost-effective method for conducting and recording any sort of transaction, blockchain technology bestow trust in a peer to peer (P2P) network without the need for a central authority. The way in which data is recorded onto a decentralized P2P network of blockchain ensures traceability, transparency and security. And that is why blockchain technology has been making its way into a number of industries. In the previous blog posts, we have already explained the real-world applications of blockchain technology and in this post, we will go a bit deeper and talk about the use cases for blockchain tech in healthcare.

Blocks on the blockchain network can hold any type of records or information, which makes it a versatile choice for healthcare industry. It is a well-known fact that revolutionary medical discoveries and advancements have changed the world. Medical breakthroughs continue to be made everyday; Yet, hospitals still function pretty much the same way it used to function decades ago. Even in this digital age, most hospitals use papers and files to record their patient information and complete different procedures. When it comes to embracing and adopting horizontal innovation, healthcare industry lag far behind.

Currently, healthcare industry is plagued by inefficiencies, errors, bureaucracy, and high administrative costs. From extremely troublesome data sharing procedures, increased ambiguity about clinical trials to complex billing system and less-than optimal patient adherence, healthcare industry has been under great pressure to deliver superior quality care to patients whilst controlling costs. With the new tamper-proof decentralized technology of blockchain, it is possible to address most of these existing challenges and revolutionize healthcare industry. Let us find out how blockchain technology may benefit the future of healthcare industry.

Interoperability of health data


As the volume of patient data increases each year, it becomes notoriously difficult to process, store and transfer information. There are a number of patients who receive treatments from different doctors and hospitals. Availing access to medical history and medication records of a complex patient plays a crucial part in deciding treatment. However, sharing patient-relevant information among the healthcare network is a challenging task, mainly because the available data not being electronic and not being in a standard format. In order to address the barriers to health data interoperability, it is crucial to explore an innovative way to access, extract and aggregate the electronic health data.


With blockchain in the equation, health data can be pooled together and distributed to authorized entities in a decentralized network while removing the single node of failure. Conceptually, blockchain technology is primed to solve the interoperability challenges in healthcare by ensuring a seamless flow of health data across stakeholders. Every transaction of data in a blockchain network is time-stamped and tamper-proof, safety and confidentiality of patient data is maintained. Records added to blockchain network can be easily transferred nationally and across borders thereby boosting the coordination of patient data management. Better data sharing between the healthcare stakeholders benefits patients as it ensures more effective treatments, higher probability of accurate diagnosis and reduced healthcare costs.

Improved interoperability attained through blockchain not only helps in treating patients efficiently across multiple organizations, but also allow creating a shared database of clinical trials and research. Blockchain can be used to facilitate the collaboration of real life medical data and research results in the most authentic and secure way.

Drug development and supply chain integrity


Proliferation of counterfeit medicines have emerged as an alarming global problem. According to the facts published by Health Research Funding Organization, the counterfeit drug market is worth $200 billion annually and internet sales of counterfeit drugs account for $75 billion of the total market. Threatening the health of hundreds of thousands of patients across the world, the problem of counterfeit drugs is getting difficult to combat and eroding the public confidence on the healthcare system. Hence it is essential for the pharma companies to adopt a technology that can plug the gaps in the supply chain management of pharmaceuticals.


Blockchain in healthcare could bring transparency, traceability and security to the drug supply chain management, right from manufacturer to the consumer. When the supply data is stored in a blockchain, authenticity and high quality of medicines can be assured. Immutability of blockchain technology makes it easy to remove the vulnerability of errors or detect fraudulent drug dealers. Since all the transactions in a supply chain are time-stamped, it would be easy for the consumer to track, trace and verify the whole path of a drug.

Billings and claims processing


Fraudulent claims and billing is one of the biggest challenges faced by the healthcare sector. Insurance fraud, billing for non-performed treatments, overcharging the medical procedures and performing unnecessary treatments are some of the very common healthcare frauds. According to the findings published by Boyd Insurance, Medicare fraud in the U.S alone costs about $68 billion year. Since the process of claim process involves multiple parties and a lot of back and forth communication, chances of discrepancies and fraudulent activities are always higher. A secure and transparent system is the need of the hour to resolve these issues.

The decentralized peer-to-peer network of blockchain can make the intermediaries obsolete by automating the workflows. Since this emerging technology works on a validation-based protocol, it could optimize interactions between the healthcare professionals, insurance companies and policy holders. Moreover, smart contracts could transform the claims processing by executing a contract automatically and proactively. Not only this would increase the efficiency of overall claim processing and billing system, but also reduce the admin costs and payment processing time.

Conclusion


The concept of blockchain technology in healthcare is disruptive, but it won’t be a piece of cake to adopt this technology in healthcare domain. Centralized structure of healthcare enterprises and investments required in implementing a distributed network are some of the some of the major challenges that are inhibiting the large-scale adoption of blockchain tech in healthcare industry.

But it is certain that blockchain will permeate healthcare industry in subtle and beneficial ways in near future. With such wide-ranged possibilities, blockchain is definitely poised to transform the overall landscape of healthcare.




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