Unless you were hibernating or stuck in an island far away from the technology world, you must have heard countless times of the revolutionary words of this year- Bitcoin and Blockchain. This must have triggered inevitable questions regarding the viability of this new technology in your respective industries
Blockchain is disrupting the financial industry with its successful implementation of bitcoin. It has the power to transform our lives. Not just one industry, it has capability to transform the entire IT ecosystem and various other sectors associated with it. Healthcare industry is not lagging and is part of this disruptive evolution.
Blockchain has the power to address security, cost, and quality related challenges faced by healthcare industry. Today, patient health records are available in an unstructured format with various healthcare providers and stored in a central database of each of such providers. This database is, therefore, vulnerable to attack by an army of hackers. In 2017, 5.579 million patient records were affected according to Protenus which tracks disclose breaches impacting the healthcare industry.
While we have introduced robots, artificial intelligence, and machine learning in healthcare, the quality of service has drastically improved. With the increase in the quality of service, the cost of healthcare has also risen.
The industry is facing pressure to offer the services at lower cost. At the same time, it has become extremely difficult for organizations to run an economically viable business in this competitive environment. Technology giants have been working hard on how they can leverage Blockchain. Various white papers are being published and proof of concepts are being implemented by organizations/institutions to showcase how they can leverage capabilities of this technology.
How blockchain can address the challenges
By leveraging the decentralized ledger capability of Blockchain, focus can be shifted to personalized or decentralized model of storing patient health information. Blockchain serves as a digital ledger of transactions. This would allow all the members of Blockchain (researchers, healthcare providers etc.) to access the information. Better collaboration of information will aid in accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of patient.
Smart contracts: Patient information can be completely captured using tailored provisions and since the information once recorded in the Blockchain is immutable, professionals can easily trust the data. Record captured in a permission network can be accessed by Patient’s private key. He/She can give access to 3rd parties (Medical practitioner/ Paramedics) to access the data through an API.
Billing support: Blockchain can help with the smooth flow of patient billing cycle, removes administrative tasks, and helps in flawless generation of medical records electronically. This eliminates the job done by third party thereby, removing the cost associated with healthcare management.
Product development: Blockchain can introduce anti tampering capabilities at production phase to ensure genuine production of pharmaceutical drugs. It also helps in tracking drug footprints by recording supply chain transactions on the distributed ledger.
Claim settlement: Smart contract would allow for fewer payment claims processing, reducing it from a range of seven to fourteen days to that of seven to fourteen minutes. This smart contract would contain information about payer-provider terms which would further help in improving the quality of service.
Internet of things (IoT): IoT enabled medical equipment’s such as wearable sensors generate large amount of data which can be aggregated to provide holistic health related information.
What organizations are doing
Companies like Blockchain Health are working on providing organizations with HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) compliant Blockchain solutions. Using the integrated platform, users can share health data with researchers. This creates a tamper proof chain of information custody.
Blockpharma (Paris, France based startup) has developed a Blockchain solution which plugs into pharmaceutical companies’ information system, so that when companies release product information and QR codes Blockchain can record subsequent transactions.
Today, Blockchain may be compared to what Internet was in early 1990’s. Imagining the future of healthcare with Blockchain seems very exciting. Blockchain solutions would allow patient, healthcare professionals and researchers to access the same record of data to obtain timely and accurate patient health information. This would help in timely diagnosis of diseases and would increase the quality of healthcare services.
Blockchain offers security at a granular level which would offer support to researchers and help in personalized medication. Thus, Blockchain would help us in moving one step ahead in our Patient-centric delivery model and would change the financial and operating model of healthcare.
The current model of the Blockchain technology need to be further explored and challenges need to be addressed before the technology reaches the plateau of productivity. These obstacles are not roadblocks and challenges won’t stop the wide acceptance of the technology. Trust will grow, standards would be adopted & regulations would be enabled. Initial 2 years are critical and will shape the future of Blockchain in business. Like other technologies, Blockchain will evolve over time and service industry will play an active role in shaping the future of Blockchain.