Blockchain has become the buzzword, and rightly so, especially with the outlook of a more curative approach in health care.
As Blockchain technology has matured, it’s demonstrated innovative opportunities to a multitude of industries. You’re probably familiar with the Blockchain in terms of banking and finances, but this technology is not limited to any one corner of the market.
The Blockchain has a much wider application, and will soon revolutionize the most fundamental points of the healthcare industry: supply chain, health records, and data transactions.
A Blockchain-based architecture can reshape the healthcare industry, both in financial transactions between patients and providers and by making specific aspects of health care delivery more efficient.
With transparency and security at its core, Blockchain technology can control and safeguard the distribution of medical data between health care providers, patients, and third-party entities, can reduce or eliminate the need of intermediaries, can monitor the entire supply chain of drugs—from manufacturer to patient—and can add transparency and control to patients’ medical records.
Ultimately, adoption of Blockchain technology will enable health care organizations to provide more affordable, higher-quality and more patient-centric health care more efficiently.
What is the Blockchain?
At its core, the Blockchain is a technology that creates and shares immutable transaction records. These records are stored in a digital ledger and are shared peer-to peer-between transactional partners.
The Blockchain has caught hold around the world and across industries because of its decentralized nature. Rather than having one copy of a record held and controlled by one centralized entity, every participant in the transaction has its own copy of it. And that record is kept in-tune with all other records—all the time.
This means the Blockchain does not allow for data to be modified until it reaches all entities who participated in the exchange.
The Blockchain’s distributed characteristics broadcast data transactions to all participants, providing them with the ability to view the history of any modification to these transactions. This decentralized and distributed nature of Blockchain technology allows for secure transactions, because every participating entity is able to view each interaction and crack down on data breaches.
With secure and decentralized transactions, you’ll start to see how Blockchain technology will revolutionize health care.
The Blockchain first came into life in 2009 in the form of ledgers for digital currencies. Since then, Blockchain technology has been broadly utilized by various industries, ranging from banks and financial institutions to governments. Logistics and health care organizations have had a special need for trust and transparency in transactions in their respective industries, leading to a more ambitious adoption of the technology charted out in these fields.
More businesses and organizations than ever are seeking their long-overdue digital transformation today via the Blockchain. According to a recent Wintergreen research report, the Blockchain will represent $60 billion in market worth by 2024. In addition, worldwide spending on Blockchain solutions will increase to $12.4 billion by 2022, from $1.5 billion in 2018.
Blockchain in health care
All of us have had first-hand experiences with the delays and inefficiencies of the health care system status quo. We have a shortage of doctors in the U.S., and access has become a rising challenge around the country.
The complexity behind even the simplest health care procedures and transactions, like the prescription and delivery of a drug, is overwhelming for all players on the field. A single medical procedure involves transactions between multiple entities, and compliance regulations have discouraged organizations from making changes to processes—however outdated.
A simple transaction like prescribing and delivering a drug triggers a huge number of administrative transactions until the patient has the product in-hand:
- First, there will be eligibility checks to determine if the patient’s insurance will cover the cost of the drug.
- Next, there are supply chain checks to determine if the drug should be sent to the patient or if it’s available in nearby pharmacies.
- Many drugs mandate therapy requirement checks as well.
- Plus, there’s validating the prescription of the medication at the time of delivery.
Despite the technologies available to us, under the weight of existing practices and compliance obligations, these events are not currently interoperable. Instead, they each take place in isolation, resulting in unnecessary friction. The end result for the patient and all parties involved is delay, higher costs and lower patient satisfaction—realities which ultimately put the patient’s health at risk.
Incorporating Blockchain technology in health care will not eliminate existing checks and balances. Rather, the Blockchain’s characteristics will streamline transactions between providers, insurance companies and patients by eliminating trust issues between them, resulting in a digital overhaul of healthcare and how it’s provided.
Areas of implementation
Medical records and data transaction
Electronic medical records are the core of every modern health care setting. However, a patient’s medical record typically grows larger and more complex over time.
Provided that every health care setting and doctor have different ways of storing and distributing medical records, things become complex when a new health provider needs to obtain a medical record. Blockchain technology can solve this by enabling patients to have total control over their medical records and decide who can get access, and to provide that access securely and efficiently.
It makes all the sense in the world for pharmaceuticals to have the highest standards in product safety and stability, particularly when it comes to the transportation of drugs. Another major issue today in the supply chain of medications is drug counterfeiting.
The National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association estimates that health care fraud costs the nation about $68 billion annually, or 3% percent of the nation's $2.26 trillion in health care spending. And, according to the HRF, roughly 10-30% percent of drugs in developing countries are fake, resulting in a loss of $200 billion annually for pharmaceutical companies.
Supply chain management powered by Blockchain technology can be monitored securely and transparently, and reduce time delay and human error—not to mention fraud. It can enable pharmaceutical companies to track the supply chain of drugs from the point of origin all the way until the drug reaches the patient.
Blockchain technology can have enormous implications to a plethora of industries outside of banking and financial enterprises. Health care, in particular, will be transformed by the adoption of these solutions. Blockchain applications to health care settings can revolutionize the business model, address some of the most fundamental and long-standing problems of the industry, and empower doctors and organizations to provide the best possible care to patients.