Four ways blockchain could improve healthcare
May COmmunIT Breakfast
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the healthcare industry; and a blockchain powered health information exchange could unlock the true value of interoperability.
Blockchain technology has the potential to transform healthcare by placing the patient at the center of the healthcare ecosystem. This technology could provide a new model for health information exchanges by making electronic medical records more efficient and secure.
Better data sharing between healthcare providers means a higher probability of accurate diagnoses, more effective treatments, and the overall increased ability of healthcare organizations to deliver cost-effective care. Blockchain technology can allow various stakeholders in the healthcare value-chain to share access to their networks without compromising data security and integrity, by allowing them to track data provenance as well as any changes made.
What is Blockchain?
A blockchain is, in the simplest of terms, a time-stamped series of immutable record of data that is managed by a cluster of computers not owned by any single entity. Each of these blocks of data are secured and bound to each other using cryptographic principles. However, the technology is poised to revolutionize more than just payment and crypto-currency. Healthcare may hold the greatest opportunities for meaningful use of the technology.
Some of the reasons why the blockchain has gained so much attention is that:
- It is not owned by a single entity, hence it is decentralized
- The data is cryptographically stored inside
- The blockchain is immutable, so no one can tamper with the data that is inside the blockchain
- The blockchain is transparent so one can track the data if they want to
How can Blockchain provide opportunities for healthcare?
Decentralization of Patient Data
Sharing patient data between doctor’s offices can be a tricky process — especially if a patient needs to see multiple specialists or is involved with multiple private practices. Using blockchain, a decentralized system which is centered on the patient instead of the data holder, creates a shared database of patient data.
If patient data could be placed onto a blockchain within the hospital at the time of inception, then the data will be stored immediately. This data could then be accessed by every department of the hospital within seconds. Additionally, this could have a significant impact on saving the hospital money by turning a vast amount of manual processes into automated processes — allowing hospital staff to focus on much more important issues.
It has been widely reported that medical records are one of the most expensive items that are sold on the dark web. One of the ways blockchain technology can help resolve this is for an individual to own and control their own data. Much like when you buy Bitcoin or any other Cryptocurrency you obtain your own Private Keys, you could own and control private keys that contain your medical information.
The healthcare industry is dealing with issues around counterfeit pharmaceuticals and the need for transparency with pharmaceuticals. Blockchain technology could help aid this process by recording the various stages of production of medications throughout every step of the supply chain.
The distributor of the medicine would be able to see via the blockchain that each part of the process had been verified and approved by a trusted party. If any issues were to arise with any medications, then the blockchain would allow users to immediately see where these issues had occurred.
So, there you have it. Blockchain has the potential to solve many healthcare industry problems, and has even more opportunities than listed above. But the potential of blockchain for healthcare highly depends on the acceptance of the new technology within the healthcare ecosystem in order to create technical infrastructure.
Capitalizing on blockchain technology has the potential to connect fragmented systems to generate insights and to better assess the value of care. In the long term, a nationwide blockchain network for electronic medical records may improve efficiencies and support better health outcomes for patients.
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