Blockchain and Healthcare: Use Cases Today and Opportunities for the Future
Blockchain technology has been the talk of the block for quite some time now. It has taken a variety of the globe’s industries by storm over the course of recent years, while at the same time building up a large amount of hype, for healthcare included.
Let’s touch on how Blockchain technology works. Blockchain is essentially a decentralized system that stores transactional records in interconnected blocks. This is where miners and cryptography come into play.
There are many ways through which the use of Blockchain technology in healthcare can yield positive results for the industry as a whole. Throughout this text, we will go over uses of the tech and how it intertwines with healthcare.
Blockchain Technology in Healthcare: What Is It?
Blockchain technology can absolve many of the issues currently experienced by the healthcare industry. These issues relate to medical data (security, interoperability, accessibility), medical research, clinical trials, medical supply chain, and drug integrity. These issues plague even the top healthcare companies.
Blockchain can disrupt healthcare due to its ability to provide unprecedented data efficiency. In addition, it ensures data access flexibility, interconnection, transparency, and security. In this text, you will come to see that the technology and healthcare go together well. Let’s find out how the industry can leverage Blockchain technology solutions.
Major Healthcare Problem Today
Currently, most medical institutions use outdated and inconvenient methods for handling medical data. This includes various e-health records, prescription drug data, insurance information, patient medical data. Improper data handling impacts patient treatment, as well as the speed of said treatment. The situation is worsened by the fact that most medical facilities in the health care sector have their own methods for storing and accessing medical data.
These practices deal blows to transparency between medical facilities, insurance providers, and patients. They open up room for severe, and even deadly, medical errors. These errors are the leading causes of death for heart disease and cancer patients in the United States. Imagine what is going on in nations that do not have as well-developed infrastructure as the US?
Patient medical data is spread across many medical facilities, insurance providers, and doctors. Today, a patient’s medical records and history are sort of like puzzles. This jumbling of data leads to loss of integrity and accuracy. This especially concerns drug prescriptions, health recipes, and diagnostics. All of these factors impact proper treatment.
Difficulties in gathering proper patient data can sometimes even mean the difference between life and death. Currently, no universal method for storing data is present, nor are there any appropriate standards set in place. This is where Blockchain and healthcare can come together to improve healthcare applications.
Blockchain Opportunities for Health Data
The use of Blockchain technology in healthcare can make a world of difference for data management. The tech can make the exchange of medical data more efficient, secure, and transparent across the health care sector as a whole.
Blockchain technology can help establish Blockchain medical records. This carves away unnecessary administrative costs and also allows for proper health data utilization. Additionally, the use of the tech can reduce the need to turn to various intermediaries to oversee the exchange of vital health data.
As mentioned before, a single patient’s medical data can be split across many facilities, care givers, and insurance providers. This means that a patient’s entire medical history is often blurry or incomplete. Digital medical records stored on a Blockchain could help parties in the health care sector put all the pieces of the health data puzzle together. Thus, data on each patient, the prescriptions they’ve acquired, treatments completed, facilities used, and other information would always be up-to-date and digestible by anyone involved in the process.
This could go a long way toward simplifying the main job of health care providers, which is to provide efficient, timely, and proper treatment to patients. By using Blockchain technology in healthcare, treatment providers would always have a complete picture of any given patient’s medical record. It’s important to remember and understand that in a Blockchain and healthcare ecosystem, all past health data is immutable, and all changes to this data are visible.
Appropriate medical data management is one of the key advantages to Blockchain and healthcare. Many issues affecting the healthcare industry, such as interoperability, data completion, fraud, and even data loss during a disaster, can be eliminated.
It is indeed worth noting that Blockchain technology can do wonders in terms of disaster recovery. Since health data wouldn’t be stored in a single location, there wouldn’t be a main failure point. If any given medical facility collapses due to an earthquake, fire, flood, asteroid strike, or any other natural disaster – health data would be safe.
The ability to ensure that health data is correct is critical for the provision of appropriate medical services. Access to proper medical data ensures that health care providers are able to provide proper diagnostics. This is further strengthened by the fact that, once any data hits a Blockchain, any alterations to it become nearly impossible. It is worth noting that medical data can be stored in a Blockchain from various sources like patient documentation, wearables, handheld devices, labs, EMR’s, and so forth. Blockchain for healthcare can aid in cutting the costs of medical companies.
Another great area in the health care sector where Blockchain and healthcare can see use is drug traceability - not only prescription traceability, but counterfeit drugs as well. All data entered into a Blockchain is immutable and time stamped. This reduces the possibility for counterfeit drugs to hit the black market, in addition to prescription mishandling.
Below are some benefits of the use of Blockchain technology in the healthcare industry.
|Current Issues||Blockchain Healthcare Opportunities|
|Health Data Accuracy||No universal medical records for health data. Facilities keep their own records. This impacts the quality of treatment that patients may (or may not) receive.||The combination of Blockchain and healthcare can provide Blockchain medical records. The accuracy of treatment delivered can be greatly improved.|
|Health Data Interoperability||Low interoperability in terms of healthcare data. Information is sloppy when moving from patient to caregiver, facility to facility, insurance provider to insurance provider.||Digital medical records backed by Blockchain technology could be easily utilized by any health care related facility. Regardless of said facility’s location.|
|Health Data Security||As is, health data can easily be altered or changed with fraudulent intent. Additionally, data can be lost due to natural disasters or tampering.||Data records stored in a Blockchain are immutable (unchangeable after they are input). This alleviates the risk of data theft or mishandling. Health data in a Blockchain is secure from damage stemming from natural disasters due to there not being a central failure point.|
|Health Data Handling Costs||Excess funds and time go to handling mismanaged and disorganized hospital record databases.||Data in a Blockchain architecture is well kept and can be easily accessed by relevant parties at any point in time.|
|Prescription (Drug) Traceability||Fake or misused clinical prescriptions are abundant. Counterfeit drugs are difficult to distinguish from those that are authentic. This can pose grievous effects on patient health.||Blockchain data is unalterable. Once anything pertaining to a prescription issuance or drug shipment, production, etc., is added, it becomes impossible to change. Positive effects in terms of pushing back on counterfeit/misused prescriptions and drug circulation are clear.|
Blockchain Use Cases in the Healthcare Sector
The uses of Blockchain technology in healthcare primarily revolve around managing data. Due to the nature of the technology, it can aid in improving the whole healthcare IT industry, in addition to facilitating faster access to data and interoperability on a universal scale.
Use of Healthcare Data and How It Can Benefit from Blockchain
The primary directions in which Blockchain and healthcare go together focus on health data and how the distributed ledger technology can come in handy and yield significant benefits for the sector. Let’s check out certain pain points that plague the industry and see how Blockchain can come to the rescue.
- Health data management
Patient medical data can vary from facility to facility. Every time a patient enters a new clinic, a medical card is created for said patient and is stored in a specific facility. This data is usually incomplete to the public eye and is filled with information recorded by the caregivers at the facility in question. This means that medical professionals in other facilities need to create new patient data cards. Most often, newly added information is redundant, leading to wasted time, which is a critical mishap when it comes to healthcare. It is also important to note that specific doctors need specific data in most cases.
Blockchain and healthcare can bandage data management issues easily. The tech can create Blockchain medical records accessible and identical the world over. Patients could always have access to their health and treatment records when needed, and doctors as well. The use of Blockchain for medical records is closer upon us than it seems.
- Clinical trials
In the health care sector, clinical trials are done to determine the efficiency of certain treatments, with the end goal of curing or providing a partial remedy for a given illness. Over the course of these trials, researchers record and store data on test results, individual statistics, patient reports, and other factors. One clinical trial can yield a lot of data, which can be quite difficult to track. Additionally, this data can be stolen, corrupted, hidden, or, as mentioned before, erased by a natural disaster. It is also not uncommon for researchers to fudge data here and there to prove a point.
This is where Blockchain and healthcare play well: through the use of the tech, the true authenticity of any document is confirmable. As you already know, data within a Blockchain is immutable, meaning there is no room for messing around. Thus, data recorded during clinical trial processes can always be approved for authenticity, while researchers, pharmaceutical companies, and legislators can be confident in data accuracy. Blockchain technology could introduce greater transparency and accountability to clinical trials. The same goes for every aspect of the healthcare sector.
- Traceability of medical drugs
Misuse and counterfeiting are huge issues. Businesses involved in the health care sector stand to lose colossal funds due to counterfeit drugs. These fake drugs can also kill patients. Prescription drug misuse is also quite a big issue.
In Blockchain and healthcare, data is unchangeable, so it becomes quite easy to discern fraudulent activity, and, thus, real prescriptions from fake ones, as well as the source of drugs. New Blockchain technologies allow for efficient tracking within a supply chain and for the easy tracking of drugs and prescriptions. Healthcare Blockchain companies like MediLedger and BlockMedx are working on thwarting fake drugs. Aside from enhancing medical drug supply chain processes, the technology offered by the latter is also available to underdeveloped nations.
- Tracking the flow of services
There are quite a few issues when it comes to the flow of services in the healthcare sector, especially insurance and medical fraud, claims, and donations. Insurance fraud can spill into the billions of dollars. Medical fraud, such as under or overtreatment, can claim lives and also ring up billions. Donations to medical campaigns can end up in the wrong hands and are often covered by a blanket of poor transparency. The inefficient way in which health data is currently stored leads to significant funds lost trying to figure out treatments issued, care received, by whom, and when.
Blockchain tech to the rescue. All events can be evaluated for authenticity, from insurance claims to care provided. There is even a Blockchain startup, called Alice, that is working on increased transparency for charitable acts. This can go a long way toward bettering the healthcare sector.
Complex data relayed in the healthcare field can result in intentional and unintentional financial mishaps. Billing fraud has become quite a serious issue. Current processes in the field are inadequate in detecting occurrences of fraud. Blockchain in healthcare today can go miles toward improving billing auditability and security, while also promoting payment processing and billing efficiency and thwarting blatant theft.
- IoT in Healthcare
Bed occupancies in emergency rooms, remote and accurate monitoring of health, inventory, patients, staff, and medical device availability - the tracking of the aforementioned items is improvable through the use of Blockchain in healthcare and IoT.
As is evident, there are many benefits of Blockchain in healthcare. The confidence provided by a Blockchain would allow medical care providers to be certain that medical devices are available when needed. Doctors would also have an easier time tracking patients and responding to health-related events across a distance. The tracking of temperatures within patient rooms, bed usage, and supply availability are improvable by intertwining Blockchain and healthcare.
There are many benefits to draw from implementing Blockchain technology in healthcare. With Blockchain technology gaining traction in the headlines over the course of the last few years, there are many leading Blockchain companies involved in health care. There are most likely more Blockchain healthcare use cases than you thought.
Top Blockchain Companies that Work to Disrupt Healthcare
In 2018, funds raised by Blockchain healthcare startups surpassed the $1 billion mark. It is evident that the use of Blockchain in healthcare is growing in its momentum. Let’s take a look at some of the leading companies in the space.
- Guardtime: A Blockchain healthcare startup based out of Estonia. The company aims to secure sensitive health information for millions of Estonians through the use of cryptographic encryption. Guardtime is now looking to bring its proprietary tech to the United Arab Emirates.
- MedRec: Utilizes Blockchain technology to provide comprehension and transparency for medical histories.
- Cyph MD: A Blockchain healthcare platform for creating secured digital identities and providing secure communication channels for healthcare facilities and providers.
- Gem: The Gem healthcare Blockchain started in California. GEM aims to connect disconnected data sets in one location. The company does this through the use of its Blockchain powered platform, GemOS.
- Chronicled: Combines Blockchain with IoT systems to improve supply chain accountability and traceability. Increases the speed of healthcare logistics, decreasing data discrepancies, improving health product visibility. The goal is to introduce more transparency to healthcare logistics.
- Patientory: Patientory aids in securing patient medical data for healthcare providers and patients. Users can track their health profile through an app. Medical billings, doctor visits, insurance, and vaccinations are also trackable.
- Doc.AI: Uses Blockchain technology to help medical facilities gain insight from medical data and research. It allows for the creation of predictive medical models.
- Medicalchain: Based out of the U.K, Medicalchain is creating a Blockchain platform that will allow for health records to be stored and shared across hospitals, medical labs, pharmaceutical companies, and doctors. Patients can also communicate with their doctors and share information online in a secure manner.
- Coral Health: A healthcare Blockchain startup utilizing Blockchain technology to alleviate the issue of poor data sharing in the healthcare sector. Coral Health is building a platform where individuals can share their patient data. The goal is to promote personalized medicine, health tips, and efficient health research.
- Blockpharma: This Blockchain healthcare startup leverages the tech to fight fake drugs. The goal is to improve drug traceability. Additionally, healthcare supply chain participants receive alerts for fake drug detections.
The list of Blockchain companies out there today is greater than what we have presented here. There are many more healthcare applications for its use. Nonetheless, there exist definite obstacles and challenges for the future of Blockchain in healthcare.
Challenges for Blockchain Healthcare
Many barriers will need to be overcome in order for Blockchain technology to go mainstream in the healthcare sector. For starters, the tech isn’t at a state of optimal maturity. Its implementation requires a decent infrastructure and interconnectivity. Thus, there are high technical barriers that can impede its seeping into healthcare. There is no main control in a Blockchain environment, thus, a network of interconnected devices is necessary to verify data that is input into a Blockchain - which is quite expensive to create. There will need to be a monetary incentive for Blockchain and healthcare to become a mass reality; maybe a healthcare cryptocurrency.
A lack of universal standards acts as an impediment for the merging of Blockchain and healthcare. For stored data to be standardized across the map, a huge amount of organizations will need to come together. Intermediaries in the healthcare sector will also need to interface. Many organizational changes will need to occur in order for Blockchain tech to be fully adopted by the healthcare industry.
Another major issue in why medical facilities are hesitant to use this new technology is due to a lack of knowledge. As Blockchain is still in its early stages, there is much to be done with regard to exploring and studying the technology. Though, this relates to the responsibilities of medical organizations and regulators. Nonetheless, the opportunities in healthcare are obvious. It is time for a change in the healthcare industry.
The Future of Blockchain in Healthcare
Considering that a significant amount of medical errors stem from mishandled data, readers can expect the challenges in implementing Blockchain technology to be overcome soon. There are many great inefficiencies which are improvable by integrating it -inefficiencies that can even cost lives.
The technology is very promising in terms of handling medical data, preventing breaches, enhancing interoperability, streamlining treatments, tracking drugs and prescriptions, and monitoring supply chains and medical devices. However, getting an initial grip on utilizing the technology can be quite challenging, so, it makes sense to contact professionals for an expert consultation on what the future of Blockchain in healthcare could look like for you.
Gaining an early understanding of healthcare Blockchain use is definitely a grand idea, as its future seems quite promising. Those that use Blockchain technology in healthcare are set up for great success. We will soon witness companies developing Blockchain technology solutions at an increased pace.
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