Many industries are already excited about the opportunities blockchain offers for them. Blockchain can facilitate government and public services, business and commerce, and the way we process digital data in general.
Some blockchain enthusiasts compare this technology to the Internet. Before the latter was introduced, the world was a different place. Perhaps, blockchain is the next big thing that can enhance human productivity greatly.
Let’s explore how blockchain can improve healthcare services. This sector has been struggling with patient data storing, sharing and securing. Patient-centered healthcare providers aim at eliminating these issues to ensure accurate diagnostics and treatment based on integral patient data that can be accessed universally. Due to numerous privacy, technical and operational limitations of the currently used systems and processes, the industry is unable to share electronic health data between different healthcare providers and hospitals quickly, safely, and efficiently. Are there any chances blockchain can solve the issues of the healthcare sector? Keep reading to find out.
Patient Data Handling
One of the major problems of the global healthcare industry is patient data storage. There are cultural, geographical, political and religious limitations that determine how patient data is collected, stored, shared and secured across the world. Different state and private health structures use different formats to store different patient data. Sometimes, it’s impossible for a person to gather all their data in one place, as there is quite often no single medical record history of a patient at hand when it’s most needed. In case of an emergency in a foreign location, a patient’s personality is identified according to their documents, but their medical history remains a mystery for the medical staff. In some cases, it can lead to unfortunate consequences.
Implementing the blockchain technology in healthcare, medical institutions, and their patients will get an opportunity to collect, exchange, and manage patient data seamlessly. Blockchain can help us finally pull the health data of every patient and store it in a decentralized system so that it can be securely preserved and easily accessed from anywhere around the world. It can potentially eliminate the forgery, theft or confusion of patient medical data. Patients can also assist the medical research progress by providing their data for research anonymously with the help of blockchain.
Drug Supply Chain Management
In the US alone, pharmaceutical companies lose $200 billion annually to drug piracy and counterfeiting. Counterfeit drugs and recalled drugs are two primary issues of the pharmaceutical industry. Blockchain is one of the most relevant solutions that can help regulate the drug supply chain precisely.
The blockchain technology can increase supply chain transparency and eliminate fraud. It will give all the members of the supply chain an opportunity to facilitate the collaboration, trace the supplied drugs at every point of their journey, and remove any redundant steps from the system. The instant transfer of data in blockchain will allow the drug industry to deal with situations like drug recall quicker and more efficiently.
Chronicled is a good example of a closed-blockchain system that tracks the drug supply system. This project ensures that only a manufacturer of a specific drug can issue serial numbers and identifiers for their products. Such an arrangement makes it much more difficult to falsify the packing and the documentation for the drugs.
Consistency of Healthcare Programs
Current data record and management systems, used in healthcare, leave much to be desired. A human error or a program glitch can lead to data discrepancy across different databases. With the implementation of the blockchain, it will no longer be an issue. Medical data, stored in the blockchain, will no longer be scattered across different incompatible systems of different organizations. Instead, it will be in one secure and easily accessible record. Every additional record will be auditable and traceable, without a chance to make an unauthorized change. The owner of the record will be able to choose whom to give access to their data. This way, a patient can control where their data goes and make sure that it will not be sold to a third-party company.
Blockchain data storage rules are clear, uniform, permanent, and decentralized. These features will eliminate the need for middleman when handling the patient’s information and will prevent any healthcare provider from creating a locked, inaccessible data system.
Currently, the systems of clinical research are different across the world. Unfortunately, humans cannot process all the data that has been accumulating in this field quickly and effectively. Blockchain can help medical research by centralizing the results of clinical trials. It will allow gathering all kinds of medical data in one format so that it would be easily accessible for authorized people without the need for processing the information by a third-party.
A blockchain-based clinical research data system can potentially regulate how data is used better. The implementation of blockchain in this sphere will force any companies working with sensitive data consent trials and develop audits to check where data goes in every case.
Blockchain can speed up the research and clinical trial process with the help of the smart contract technology. First, the trial protocol, with all its criteria and limitation, should be included in the smart contract. Next, the research or trial will take place, and the obtained data will be stored when the criteria and limitations of the smart contract are met. Finally, when the study is over, and the contract is finished, the data and the analysis will be ready for sharing. Such an approach would make clinical research and trials easier to perform and analyze.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, nearly 10% of the insurance industry losses are caused by the property and casualty insurance fraud annually. Over five years—between 2013 and 2017—these types of fraud amounted to about $30 billion annually.
The current healthcare insurance system is vulnerable. It is a target for fraudsters like applicants for insurance and policyholders. Some professionals providing services and equipment to claimants and third-party claimants are among the fraudsters as well. Popular fraud schemes include faking an injury, inflating actual claims, distortion of facts, staging accidents, and claiming commission for services that have never been delivered.
Blockchain can potentially eliminate insurance fraud. When a decentralized medical record is saved on a blockchain, only an owner of the record has the key to access it. A patient’s health insurance plan is also saved on a blockchain. Thus, all the details of the insurance coverage policy are listed and cannot be altered. As a result, when a patient turns to their insurance company and informs them about the insurable event, all the conditions are automatically changed. This way, there will be no chance for the dishonest party to avoid being faithful in the performance of their duty.
All of the above-described blockchain solutions for healthcare are potential and highly theoretical. Of course, the implementation of every solution will require much time and effort. However, adopting this decentralized secure technology can potentially enhance the performance of the healthcare sector greatly. Implementing blockchain into the healthcare industry is worth it for the sake of the transparency, security, and democracy of its operation.