The healthcare industry has long been in need of a shake-up, with the system within which it operates lagging far behind the technological advances regarding procedures and treatments. Although many improvements have been made, it is arguable that this is not sufficient and many have called for blockchain technology to be introduced.
Here are some possible ways that it can be used to change the medical industry for the better:
Secure Medical Records
The medical industry is already familiar with storing records digitally so a distributed ledger is just the next step to ensure security, accuracy, and perhaps most importantly, patient’s privacy. These records will be accessible from anywhere in the world and will hold complete medical histories which can include data such as symptoms, treatments attempted and their effectiveness, to name just three.
In addition, the security will help to prevent, rare but devastating, events such as the 2017 ransomware crisis faced by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). The attack highlights the need for many healthcare systems to undergo a huge revamp in terms of database security, in both developed and developing countries.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the healthcare system is how inefficient and slow it can seem at times. A blockchain database would go a long way to eliminating this, with implementation likely to require fundamental changes that overhaul the existing system entirely, especially in less developed nations. Such a system would enable records to be maintained at a low cost, and enable medical professionals around the world to obtain and secure patient history quickly and accurately. Not only will this speed up the process, but it could also lead to faster diagnosis and treatment with the assistance of support apps and AI.
More efficient healthcare processes require an overhaul of existing systems. The presence of an immutable ledger could also lead to automatic processing of insurance claims. All data regarding medical history will be in each patient’s profile, allowing claims to be easily compared and verified with this information. This, in turn, should lead to automatic assessments and then payouts, which will lower costs and allow staff to focus on other important areas.
Transparency in Pharmaceuticals
In recent years, counterfeit medicine has emerged as a huge problem in the industry, putting many human lives at risk. The issue is more prevalent in less developed nations, with counterfeit drugs finding its way onto shelves alongside legitimate medicines.
Blockchain could help to squeeze them out of the supply chain due to its transparent nature and the ability for all parties to keep track of drugs in real-time. This ensures that each medicine finds its way to its intended destination without being compromised. Furthermore, each type of drug would have a digital fingerprint which makes it much harder for criminal organizations to slip counterfeits into the network without being picked up by nodes.
Is Blockchain The Answer?
According to market research firm HRA, the awareness of blockchain within the healthcare industry is on the rise. A landscape analysis was conducted across various social media platforms regarding blockchain-related conversations, with the firm finding over 56,000 linked to healthcare. While it is clear that there is a growing sentiment that blockchain could be the answer to the many problems and inefficiencies within the system, it could take some time before adoption picks up.
However, the opportunity for government and private healthcare systems to safely secure vital data should be incentive enough to push for the implementation of blockchain technology. Also, the presence of an efficient, digital structure will free up manpower and lower costs, the surplus of which can be devoted towards improving the industry as a whole.