The healthcare industry is in a state of flux. With the advent of new technologies, there are a number of challenges that need to be addressed. One of these is how to make the system more transparent.
Blockchain technology is being implemented into healthcare as a way to give patients a fairer deal, and it can also offer benefits in other areas such as prevention and logistics. However, using blockchain in healthcare may come at an added cost due to additional development regimens needed for its implementation.
Blockchain technology is a good way for the quality and security of patient care to improve, but it’s clear that the ways data is stored and secured will be an ongoing issue for those who are trying to make healthcare more efficient.
In addition, many people are worried about how their private information will be used by providers. But because blockchain technology is still relatively new, more opportunities exist to explore using this technology as a tool to protect patient privacy while also making sure that health care plans are efficient and effective.
What is a Blockchain
A blockchain is a public ledger of all bitcoin transactions that have ever been executed. A block is the “current” part of a blockchain which records some or all of the recent transactions, and once completed, goes into the blockchain as a permanent database.
Each time a block gets completed, a new block is generated. A blockchain can serve as an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way.
What is Healthcare Blockchain
Healthcare blockchain (also known as MedRec) helps to address issues related to medical records, billing and administration. It uses distributed ledger technology (DLT) that allows medical records to become more secure and reliable digitally stored data in healthcare systems.
The data source and storage mechanism of the record are immutable. Distributed ledger technology (DLT) provides a transparent process that reduces errors and fraud. It can be used for electronic (electronic medical record system) healthcare data management, which allows users to get access to verified information from multiple sources.
How Blockchain will Transform Healthcare
Blockchain has been touted as a solution to some of the most daunting challenges facing healthcare today: From improving patient outcomes through greater efficiency and more accurate data to defending against cyber-attacks and fraud to minimizing friction in transactions by using smart contracts.
Huang and colleagues advocated employing multiple-signature contracts in healthcare blockchains in a 2019 article. Healthcare providers have been quick to adopt blockchain because it offers trustworthy, immutable data records and offers new ways to prevent fraud from getting into the system.
As players and business partners begin exploring ways they can begin using DLT technology in their systems, they will likely find great benefits from integrating blockchain technology into their supply chains.
While use cases to improve business processes and electronic medical records (EMR) systems are developing, blockchain’s most immediate benefit is in improving patient care. Blockchain technology can help improve the accuracy and timeliness of vital signs tracking, safety-net provider payments, coding data and more.
Blockchain can also facilitate the addition of payment options for healthcare providers. In some cases, this could include smart contracts that automatically manage payments as services are delivered or prescriptions filled.
It can even make scheduling simpler for patients by eliminating the need for paper billing and appointment confirmations. Blockchain is also expected to help in fighting healthcare fraud.
The Potential of Blockchain in Healthcare
Blockchain can help create better chances for individuals to have access to the understanding of their medical records. Blockchain could be used to enable patients to have full control over their medical records, including how the records are shared with other people and institutions.
Blockchain wouldn’t guarantee that hackers won’t get at private data, but it would provide extra layers of protection that would minimize the chance of hacking or security breaches. A 51% attack is most likely on private permissioned blockchains.
If there’s a way blockchain can help make care more efficient, it’s in dispute resolution. Patients who feel they’ve been misdiagnosed or treated in an unfair way (perhaps because they don’t understand medications or are having trouble paying some bills) could use blockchain technology to make complaints more efficient and less costly.
Blockchain could help reduce lawsuits, too – by making it possible to make medical records transparent, this would allow patients to access their records and share information with the right people at parties who have a legitimate need to know these details.
How is Blockchain Being Used in Healthcare
Blockchain’s potential in the healthcare system is likely to be felt first by companies engaged in drug recalls, medical device recalls and other types of recalls. Blockchain helps ensure that information is shared and maintained accurately, which can make it easier and cheaper to track down patients or devices associated with a recall.
Having this level of transparency can make an ongoing recall less costly to fix and often also help prevent the need for future recalls by making it possible to find issues before they cause harm. According to a 2020 assessment, 83% of medical imaging machines were using unsupported operating systems, leaving enterprises open to hacks.
The FDA has already approved two blockchain-based records management applications that are being used in pharmaceutical supply chains, but they may not be the final product or even the first. More blockchain-based applications are expected in the near future as the technology matures and becomes more secure.
How Blockchain Works in The Healthcare System
Blockchain technology involves a series of blocks, each of which holds a different set of data about every transaction made with that particular block. This is why blockchain refers to the “chain” being linked (hence its name).
The healthcare sector is under constant pressure to improve health outcomes while reducing costs. One area that has been identified as a potential cost-saving is the medical supply chain. By better managing the medical supply chain, it is possible to reduce waste and improve the overall efficiency of the healthcare sector.
The use of data is key to managing the medical supply chain effectively. By tracking medical data, it is possible to identify areas where the supply chain can be improved.
The process of using blockchain to store and verify data is as follows:
1. A Patient Creates a Unique Code
Each patient that wants to be registered and have access to their personal medical records must create a unique code. This code is used as the “key” when entering the data into the system, providing an additional layer of security to prevent unauthorized people from tinkering with the information.
For example, you would share this code with your doctors for them to see your medical history. Your pharmacist would have access as well as insurance companies who are looking for better ways to manage and store drug records.
2. The Patient’s Information is Added to a Block
Each patient’s information is added to an encrypted and secure block (once the key is entered). This means that it’s virtually impossible for someone to take a peek at any of your information without being authorized.
3. The Next Block is Now Available
Once the data is in place, the next step involves relying on “miners” (a computer system designed for this purpose) to add the data from the previous block into a new one. As with bitcoin mining, “miners” get paid for their work (in this case, by receiving transaction fees).
4. A New Block is Added and The Information is Now in a Different Block
The new block is then added to the chain. With one block produced every 10 minutes, it’s completely transparent to all users on the network, so they can see a full history of each transaction that happens.
5. Each Time a New Block is Created, Everyone Starts Over
After a certain number of blocks have been created (usually about every 10 minutes), everyone’s information will be reset and “cleaned” again. A new hash algorithm is used for this purpose, which means that there are no mistakes or inconsistencies in data stored on the blockchain.
What Trends are Happening in Healthcare Blockchain
The healthcare industry has been slow to adopt blockchain technology. The reason is that healthcare companies don’t fully understand what they can do with it and how it can improve the patient experience or cost structure.
Blockchain is still relatively new, and once the tech sector gets a hold of something, it can take some time for other industries to figure out how it fits into their existing practices and strategies.
But as companies begin to experiment with blockchain, they are finding ways in which blockchain can provide better security as well as more accurate information sharing with patients. Companies are also evaluating how they can use blockchain to help better manage risks within their organizations.
The most important influence of blockchain could be on the insurance industry. Anthem (NYSE:ANTM) is one of the nation’s leading health insurers. In 2019, the company and several other partners teamed up to develop a blockchain healthcare network.
Many people have begun filing claims through blockchain technologies. Lately, many companies have turned to their insurance providers for better solutions. The use of blockchain could potentially change how personal health information is stored and used by providers and insurers.
Blockchain could help create a more secure environment for patient information to be stored, as well as make it easier for patients to access their own medical history and experiences.
Blockchain allows people to have greater transparency over their healthcare records, giving them more control over what happens with this data. Companies and insurance providers have already begun to take notice of blockchain’s potential for healthcare, as have regulatory organizations.
Generally, the healthcare industry is beginning to accept that blockchain technology can help them improve their practices and ultimately provide a better patient experience.
Companies that Use Blockchain in Healthcare
The healthcare industry relies on a number of different vendors for various kinds of solutions.
The following is a list of companies that provide blockchain solutions being used by healthcare organizations:
Hashed Health is dedicated to using blockchain technology to assist the healthcare business in addressing its most pressing issues. It provides software development kits (SDKs) and clinical tools for use with blockchain protocols. It also helps companies to create their own applications through smart contracts and APIs.
An up-and-coming blockchain platform, Cardano was designed specifically to handle large amounts of data, which is crucial when it comes to managing medical records and other forms of information within the healthcare system.
The company changed its name to Interbit and went back to the drawing board. Its aim is to focus on providing the most efficient and secure blockchain solutions for companies in need.
Launched with the goal of using blockchain to reward users for uploading information about their interactions with medications. This information could include side effects, effectiveness, interactions, etc., as well as give patients better control over their own records. By utilizing blockchain technology, MediChain helps provide patients with more transparency over their medical history and medical provider information.
InHealth was one of the first blockchain-based healthcare companies to focus on helping people manage their own health records while offering greater control over their personal data.
The company provides a range of apps and services including an app that stores health data on a patient’s smartphone. Since these apps are encrypted, there is no chance that patients’ information can be taken out of the system, a serious concern for providers and insurers who have thousands of patient records stored in centralized databases.
WizMed was created with the goal of providing a complete solution to all the challenges involved with complex health industry transactions. It provides healthcare providers with a wealth of blockchain-based services and technologies to help them to streamline their own processes and improve patient appointments.
E-Health Alliance is an organization that creates standards for blockchain in healthcare and privacy protection, as well as being an advocate for blockchain adoption in healthcare. They offer education for interested parties about blockchain technology, as well as provide tools and services to help companies integrate this technology into their practices.
Benefits of Blockchain in Healthcare
Medical professionals have long relied on health care service corporations to maintain patient medical records and other data. However, recent changes in the way medical institutions store and access data have made it more difficult for medical professionals to access the information they need.
Providing Access to Better Information
Blockchain technology can increase safety, improve access to data, and offer greater control over how information is used. Better information leads to better outcomes. Blockchain has the potential to help all stakeholders in the healthcare system be able to trust the information they are receiving.
This will lead to more informed treatment decisions and a better ability to manage care. Healthcare companies are betting big on blockchain’s potential applications in securing data and giving people more control over their own health records.
Allowing for Secure Data Exchange and Sharing
Healthcare blockchain technology helps with the accurate, transparent exchange of data between providers and patients. This could allow for easier access to health information such as lab test results from patients’ doctors, or access to medical record data. Sharing data also reduces the risk of human error and may help prevent fraud by making it easier for healthcare providers to find out who has been prescribed medication.
Improving Patient Care and Preventing Fraud
Blockchain can be used in ways that improve patient care. It can enable the sharing of information between patients and their healthcare providers, allowing them to have better access to their own medical records.
Using smart contracts could even allow patients to set payment schedules that they can automatically payback based on the amount of time they have been taking their medications or services.
Blockchain can also provide a more secure way to exchange information because it uses blockchain to store records. This means that hackers cannot alter the information they are accessing, making it much harder for them to pass on fake information or data that is intentionally wrong.
Because a blockchain doesn’t have a single point of failure, people and organizations are able to process much more complex data faster and in a trustworthy environment without having to worry about how accurate their data is.
This allows carriers and others with access to the database to be able to make more accurate decisions based on real-time data. This can make the risks of patient care errors less frequent and therefore prevent more lives from being lost due to medical negligence or malpractice lawsuits.
What Challenges Does Blockchain Face in Healthcare
Another potential negative of blockchain technology is that it is still relatively new, and regulatory and compliance issues don’t happen overnight. People are also wondering if blockchain would make it easier for hackers to steal patient data or whether this might cause safety and security risks.
Blockchain technology will continue to face challenges in securing patient data as well as ensuring that companies are not putting consumer privacy at risk. Blockchain can be used for a variety of purposes, but as companies learn more about how to be more compliant with regulations, patients’ privacy could be at greater risk than it is today.
Alaa Abd-alrazaq, PhD, of Qatar’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University, and colleagues explored the benefits and potential challenges of blockchain in the healthcare business in a 2020 review published in the International Journal of Medical Informatics.
Future of Blockchain in Healthcare
Blockchain-based technologies will continue to revolutionize how healthcare is managed.
According to BIS Research, while $170 million was spent on healthcare blockchain in 2018, that figure is predicted to rise to $5.61 billion by 2025.
By acting as an alternative, safe, and trustworthy tool for storing sensitive medical information, blockchain has the potential to redo much of what the industry currently does wrong.
The biggest sceptical argument is that this technology will just be a fad and not become a real solution to the problems in healthcare, but as long as it can do what it claims to do (and so far that’s working out well), it’s likely only a matter of time before it continues to advance and become more useful.