The only way to make your presence felt in the competitive market today is to make sure that you stay ahead of the curve. In this digital age, it is imperative that industries adopt and adapt to the latest technologies in order to fulfill the growing demands of the public. While this holds true for all industries, it is especially applicable to the healthcare sector; with better accessibility and a more customer-centric approach, healthcare companies are now trying to provide their customers with better service. The healthcare industry has seen a lot of developments in recent years, and with constant innovations taking place, it is set for a transformation.
This transformation in part is being brought about by the incorporation of blockchain technology into healthcare services. Soon after its development as the underlying architecture for Bitcoin, the concept of the blockchain was recognized as having broader value beyond enabling a decentralized alternative form of currency. For example, some organizations are beginning to use blockchain to apply advanced analytics from different sources without compromising on the privacy of individuals and creating a better chain of information. We are now seeing a rapid expansion of blockchain-based technology offerings, many of them in the Healthcare and Pharma/Biotech spaces.
Let’s take it back a little: what is blockchain? It is simply a distributed and a write-once-read-only record of information or events in a chronological order that is shared in a peer-to-peer network. It records exchanges and transactions in a database that can be distributed and shared across authorized users that can view and add to it when needed. Simple enough. But here’s what makes blockchain different- these authorized users can neither delete nor alter any record and no transaction can take place unless validated by all users.
How Can Blockchain Help Healthcare?
In health care, we talk about blockchain in terms of its ability to securely, privately and comprehensively track patient health records. Currently, a patient’s medical history is a puzzle with many pieces, scattered across multiple providers and organizations. One piece is held by your primary care doctor, while several other pieces are held by every specialist you have visited throughout your life. Another set might be held by wearables or devices that track your health.
The technology is built in such a way that it has components that facilitate faster and smooth interoperability between various systems. Other advantages include scalability according to demand, disaster recovery, data encryption and cryptography technologies.
In addition to this, patients, healthcare providers, and other related individuals in the field can choose from a varied range of applications and select options that would suit their specific requirements. This is done by allowing patients, medical professionals, researchers in the medical field and the other people involved in the healthcare community to access the same shared data source on a timely basis.
With a Blockchain-based standard, every change to a patient’s record would be verified, combined with other transactions and added as a block to a larger blockchain. As a result, providers can be sure that they have the complete historical picture of a patient’s medical history, how it has changed over time and who made these changes. This provides a comprehensive record, and ultimately, better treatment.
Applications Of Blockchain:
Blockchain can serve a lot of purposes, and the industry is experimenting with quite a few. Let’s take a look at some of the most promising:
Medical Data Management:
Medical data management is a major advantage of Blockchain technology. By enabling health IT systems with the technology, all the existing challenges like security, reliability, privacy and even data interoperability can be addressed and fixed. It gives timely access to data that healthcare professionals can use to make crucial diagnosis and deliver appropriate treatments. In fact, with blockchain technology, healthcare data becomes better managed, while cutting costs for patients as well the providers.
Everyone related to the patient-care community can have their own local copy of the dataset, and when one person wants to make changes to the data, they will have to go through a series of cryptographic criteria to be allowed to. Once the edits are made, it is then turned into a ‘block’, which is then approved and locked in place. The other members in the community will have to approve of the changes before they can be turned into blocks.
If the changes are made in a patient’s health record, then the patient has complete control over who can make changes in the data. They can monitor the edits made- such as new diagnosis- limit people who can see sensitive medical conditions such as mental health data and other specifications.
Bills and Claims:
Billing and claims management refers to a process through which filing and processing of medical claims related to patient diagnoses, treatments and medications is done. Many organisations have fallen victim to data breaches where patient files are compromised leading to medical insurance fraud, theft and larceny. Through Blockchain technology, it is possible to stop a majority of these instances simply because the technology itself is built on complex and cryptic layers of data transactions. Greater auditability and traceability would help increase trust in the process, not to mention the safe and manageable revenue cycle management that companies can follow.
Interfering in medical research is a serious issue that can be controlled successfully through the implementation of Blockchain technology. For example collaboration between the researchers and research participants in various innovative studies can be initiated properly. It can also give rise to techniques that can replace traditional or conventional methods of research and clinical care; Blockchain can let the researchers reach a considerable level of accuracy with the data that is made available throughout the clinical process.
In the medical research field, time is of ultimate consequence; the timestamp is one of the main features of each transaction made through Blockchain, and this information will be publicly transparent. It helps establish validity and accuracy. The core functionalities of the technology include traceability and historicity of data, and users possessing the time-stamped data will become its owners. Frauds and errors in the clinical trial records can be significantly reduced by adopting Blockchain-enabled, time-stamped records of all the trials, experiments, protocols and results.
With the Internet of Things, Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) and various other connected devices, the security of systems is another major concern within the field of healthcare. But Blockchain brings a solution to this problem; the technology helps you enjoy all the benefits of connected devices, while at the same time securing the data and keeping them private.
As an increasing amount of electronic data is being shared across the internet, the security of medical data is becoming a top priority for all organizations. Verifying transactions by consensus of all the parties involved, and then validating them against a ledger of similar other transactions in the past is a major advantage of the technology. In addition, from the technology standpoint, it is virtually impossible to change the data; this is important in ensuring that the patient gets the exact treatment that he/she needs. The fact is that you have multiple checkpoints, so the entire data filling and exchanging is done in ultimate secrecy, while patients have ultimate control over them. They can even decide who has access to their records, and who can make changes to it.
Challenges That Can Be Overcome With Blockchain:
- Computer networks can aid in accurate patient data through decentralized storage
- Data can be shared across networks
Timely Access to Patient Data:
- Distributed ledger system facilitates fragmented and secure access to patient health data
- Updates to patient’s shared data done in real time
- Decentralized Internet and computer networks across boundaries
- High-level authenticity
- Digital transaction security is ensured, protecting patient identity
Patient Generated Data:
- Comprehensive patient data can be collected through wearable IoT devices
- System is highly efficient due to real-time processing and reduced transaction costs
- No third-party applications, so no delay in accessing data
- Prevents miscommunication due to human error
The use of this technology in the healthcare sector will engage and empower millions of individuals and healthcare organisations to share vast amounts of data. The future looks bright, especially when it assures greater information exchange with guaranteed privacy protection and security. This development could lead to more precise medical techniques and also bring about innovations in medical research. With a better handle on things, and an understanding of the bigger picture, the healthcare industry can engage in better and more beneficial practices.