With the advent of blockchain, every industry could undergo radical changes. It is mainly because of its unique features like immutability, transparency, automation, etc. The features have the potential to solve the existing challenges of almost every industry, and the healthcare industry is no exception.
The existing system of healthcare industry is facing several challenges. These challenges lead to the loss of a substantial portion of their revenue and patients’ care. Blockchain could act as a remedy to several of these challenges. Moreover, a more patient-centric approach is the need of the moment.
The recent “The Global Blockchain in Healthcare 2022” report mentioned that adopting the technology can help health industries save $150billion per year by 2025. Currently, 40% of healthcare executives have blockchain adoption on their priority list.
Throughout this article, we will explore how blockchain could benefit the healthcare industry and how it could replace existing difficulties. We will also be going through blockchain use cases in the healthcare industry. As we examine these use cases, we will gain a better understanding of how blockchain could transform the healthcare industry and make it more efficient than previously imagined.
Applications of Blockchain in Healthcare
Blockchain Technology could help the healthcare industry to make this transition smooth and successful. As per the research paper on NCBI, blockchain is being used for electronic health records as the main use case.
Here are a few major use cases that could utilise the potential of blockchain technology and make the healthcare industry more accessible, reliable, and accountable.
Electronic Health Records
At present, patients’ medical records are being stored in the private databases of individual healthcare institutions. Patients, even for their own records, have to request it from their healthcare institution. Blockchain will give patients complete authority over their medical records, and they can share or transfer their records to other healthcare providers. This will also change the scenario of management of health data of patients as blockchain will enable electronic health records to record comprehensive health data of patients from all healthcare providers in one single record.
Mobile Health and Remote Monitoring
Despite all the recent technological advances, healthcare institutions still lack a system that allows them to monitor their patient’s health remotely. Currently, there are apps, devices, and sensors in the market that can record the patient’s health and collect data. Blockchain could serve as a linchpin for storing, sharing, and retrieving remotely collected biomedical data from these devices.
Health Insurance Claims & Verifications
Claims and verification of health insurance have become the biggest pain point of the medical insurance industry. The traditional claim verification and reimbursement process/method is unable to deal with the increasing frauds and abuse of the system. The medical insurance sector can benefit from blockchain’s immutability, transparency, and auditability of data stored on it. Moreover, with the help of smart contracts, the process of verification and reimbursement of claims can be automated and made more efficient.
Clinical trials are a data-intensive process. They require large amounts of human data to run their research programs. At present, the major challenges for clinical trials are the lack of access to patient data and the spiralling cost of trials. Blockchain would solve these problems by unlocking the siloed data in individual databases of healthcare institutions, providing better data management support, and enabling real-time monitoring of clinical trial subjects.
Pharma Supply Chain
Prevention of production and distribution of counterfeit drugs has become a significant threat in the healthcare industry. The lack of transparency in traditional supply chain management is a major cause for such a rampant increase of counterfeited drugs. Blockchain can address this drawback of the supply chain, ensure complete transparency and help identify the origin of medical supplies.
Benefits of blockchain in healthcare:
The Healthcare Sector is suffering from several shortcomings. Blockchain can benefit the healthcare industry in overcoming these shortcomings. Some of the most notable benefits are:
Enhanced Data Security
Healthcare has proved to be the most vulnerable sector to cyber-attacks, accounting for the highest number of attacks among all the sectors. The current healthcare organizations operate using a single central database. This database is managed by one party within the organization. This approach leads to a single point of failure. In such a case, if a hacker attacks the system, he can access the entire database and put the patients as well as the organization at risk.
The use of Blockchain would prevent cyberattacks by eliminating the issue of a single point of failure. All of the parties would be able to see & verify each transaction in the ledger, thereby making it tamper-resistant. Hacking of more than one node makes it very difficult to attack the database, and adding cryptography on top of it makes it nearly impossible.
Interoperability & Integration of data
With the advances in electronic information technology, most healthcare institutions are now storing records of their patients in digital form. The problem with such databases is that they can’t share their data with other parties, such as patients & other healthcare institutions, without proper authorization due to security and privacy concerns.
As a result, an efficient and smooth data transition isn’t achieved between the parties. Grant of authorization in itself is a time-consuming process and after authorization lack of proper channels for the transition of data between the parties makes this process even more challenging and segmented.
With the use of private or consortium blockchains, different institutions can share data without compromising security, privacy, and authorization. An increase in collaboration among all stakeholders in healthcare will unlock substantial use cases and improve healthcare delivery by making the right data available at the right time to the right people.
Visibility & Traceability of medical supplies
The current healthcare system is facing issues such as a lack of transparency and traceability of medical supplies. The primary reason for these issues is that many participants are involved in a medical supply transaction, including the raw material vendor, manufacturer, wholesaler, and retailer.
Now, all these participants maintain their own databases for their services, and reconciliation of all the databases becomes hard to achieve. This causes ambiguity in the supply chain of medical supplies and hampers transparency. Consumers and other stakeholders cannot verify the medical supply’s authenticity, quality, and price.
Blockchain can help secure and identify the trail of medical supplies with full transparency. Through the distributed network, all parties involved in the transaction receive updates about medical supplies in real time, addressing the issue of transparency and traceability.
Automated & Efficient record-keeping
Comprehensive, timely, and accurate record-keeping is the most critical part of every healthcare institution. Still, many healthcare institutions are dependent on outdated systems & manual practices for keeping patient records. This leads to time-consuming and error-prone record-keeping. Furthermore, improper record-keeping not only compromises patient care but also puts the institution at risk for legal claims.
Blockchain can turn this dull and outdated record-keeping process into a dynamic automated process. Blockchain, with its smart contract feature, can automate the intensive task of record-keeping. By achieving automation, accuracy will also get improved.
The labor force of the healthcare institution, which used to spend most of its time in dealing with these clerical tasks, can move on to more meaningful tasks such as attending to patient needs. The implementation of blockchain will solve the perennial problem of staff shortages.
Healthcare fraud is a serious and growing industry challenge. It comes in many different forms: over-billing for services or supplies, falsifying patient data, miscoding of claims, etc. Healthcare fraud directly impacts the quality and cost of care a patient receives and can put their lives at risk when exposed to treatment or procedures that are not medically warranted. The traditional healthcare system is incapable of curbing such fraudulent practices due to a lack of patient participation and transparency in the healthcare sector.
Blockchain technology enables secure data management with patient participation and transparency, which could mitigate this risk of healthcare fraud and abuse. Blockchain framework proposes a tamper-evident and near-immutable as it doesn’t allow deleting or changing of data.
Blockchain in healthcare has a lot to offer and is ready to deliver results and transform the industry for good. To counter the significant challenges this industry is facing, it is essential to bring a change and improve the quality of healthcare services currently being given out. With proper implementation and robust applications, blockchain technology can be the saviour of the healthcare industry.
The use of blockchain in healthcare is still in its infancy today but within the next few years, it won’t be surprising to see blockchain become an integral part of healthcare.
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