Amongst various industries. The blockchain technology has found its place in the healthcare industry as well. Blockchain has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry with the applications and use cases it provides.
The healthcare industry faces issues of rising hospital costs, data breaches, and inefficient practices. In the US alone, about 20% of the GDP is spent on the healthcare sector. Blockchain has the potential to efficiently solve these problems, protect crucial and confidential patient data, reduce high spendings and improve the healthcare experience.
Problems In The Healthcare System
The current healthcare system is infested with issues, ambiguities and certain rules that make the whole process lengthy and cumbersome. With healthcare facilities being dependent on outdated systems to store patient information and data, the costs of maintaining these systems have been increasing. Moreover, due to the involvement of middlemen in the supply chain management the quality of healthcare drops significantly.
Lack of processes to efficiently manage patient data results in delays in accessing crucial patient data when in need. Furthermore, the patient data is usually scattered around departments and systems because of which it is often misused. Patient information is prone to identity thefts, scams and financial crimes.
As per some reports and statistics, almost half of the clinical trials remain unreported in the US and nearly 40% of data records of healthcare providers contain misleading information, errors, and omissions. These breaches cost about $380 per record which is expected to continue to rise.
Blockchain seems to be the only solution in the current times to bring about transparency, security, and immutability in the healthcare industry. That being said, it is important to understand what are the use cases of blockchain in the healthcare industry and how it can benefit the community as a whole.
Blockchain Applications in Healthcare
Patient Data Protection
Stealing of credit card details, banking information, as well as test records, are the data breaches that usually happen. Security of patient data being the major requirement in healthcare, blockchain makes it possible to secure patient information relating to medical records or financial data.
The disruptive technology is immutable, transparent and decentralized creating a secure log of patient data, hiding confidential medical information and patient identity with complex codes. Moreover, securing the patient information in an organized way facilitates doctors and healthcare providers in safely and timely receiving or sharing of patient information.
The healthcare system in the present times has access to a central database that is managed by a single entity. Therefore, it makes it easier for hackers to attack the system and gain access to the complete database thereby compromising confidential patient information.
The application of blockchain to secure healthcare setups protects healthcare systems from attacks and threats as well as hardware failure issues. Blockchain protects the internal infrastructure of the healthcare organization giving a different level of access to multiple identities with encryptions in place.
Tracing Drugs & Medicines
The supply chain of drugs is a major source of losses every year for the healthcare industry. Drugs cannot be traced back to the origin and therefore result in 10%-30% of drugs from developing counties being fake or counterfeit. Not only does drug counterfeiting lead to deaths from wrong medication but it also causes a loss of approx. 200 billion dollars in the healthcare industry in the US.
When applied as a solution to eliminate the problems of drug traceability, blockchain enhances security and ensures that the drugs and medicines are not fake. With blockchain, every transaction contains a timestamp and can be easily traced back to the origin to retrieve the information on drugs. It not only instills trust and reliability in the manufacturing and distribution process but also eliminates the risk of fake drugs being circulated.
In such cases, it’s advisable to opt for a private blockchain that gives the control to a central authority to register drugs on blockchain and give access only to specific actors in the supply chain.
Data Management for Patients
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act provides strict guidelines in relation to the protection of confidential patient data from breaches or modification. However, the complex healthcare system requires patient information such as medical records and other data to be shared with different entities within the ecosystem.
Through the application of blockchain in patient data management, a hash can be created for each block of patient information through which their information can be shared with the relevant entities while keeping their identities hidden. Further, patients can also control the time and permission for sharing their data with other parties.
Protection Against Insurance Frauds
Insurance frauds such as false billing or unnecessary charges cost $68 billion every year to the healthcare industry in the US. Blockchain can help curb insurance fraud in healthcare as records stored on blockchain are immutable and cannot be altered.
Transparency & Accessibility
Blockchain provides transparent and accessible health information to patients. Further, it facilitates the accuracy of records in case of any changes made to the documents of a patient with a validation request. Verification to make changes further enhances the security against human errors and intentional errors.
Blockchain enhances the interoperability between hospitals, clinics and other healthcare providers as it allows authorized parties to view the database of patient information and medical records. This protects patient data and also facilitates healthcare providers to work on a single storage.
Blockchain technology is yet to realize its full potential in the healthcare industry as it has already countered and resolved various problems inherent in the system and continues to resolve more. The applications and use cases of blockchain in the healthcare industry are bringing a paradigm shift in the way the industry operates and facilitating a better healthcare process for both patients and healthcare providers.