The difficulties faced in global healthcare are well documented. Only a small fraction of the global population has access to qualitative healthcare. Even in the so-called first-world countries, masses struggle to access good healthcare, as it is often unaffordable.
When the topic of blockchain is raised or discussed, what comes to mind is the distributed ledger system that works via consensual digital validation and military-grade encryption.
Blockchain technology is linked with cryptocurrency and finance. Blockchain technology is what makes it possible to buy Ethereum and invest in other crypto tokens in the hope of making a profit.
By contrast, healthcare seems far-flung, as it can be difficult to see the correlation between healthcare and crypto tokens like Bitcoin and Ethereum. But then, that is the precise point of this article- to demonstrate the potential of blockchain technology in the healthcare sector.
Blockchain can revolutionize healthcare. The patient is placed at the epicenter of the ecosystem, thus increasing the interoperability, privacy, and security of health information and data.
What is the Blockchain
The blockchain is a digitally distributed ledger that facilitates and stores records of transactions immutably. It is a shared list of P2P (peer-to-peer) transactions made up of linked blocks. Blockchain technology is facilitated by modern cryptography, which secures the system and makes certain pre-automation possible, and infallible.
The blockchain is a decentralized financial system, as users can carry out transactions without the need for a middleman such as a Central Bank. As the system is visible to all members of the network, it is impossible for one single unit to make alterations to the block.
Hence lies the heart of the blockchain’s renowned security.
The Problems of Global Healthcare
The global healthcare system is plagued by several issues. Data sharing, in particular, is a major conundrum. In addition, the ambiguity of medical research and clinical trials is a serious issue.
There is a feeling of intense pressure in the field to find a balance between qualitative healthcare and spiraling medical costs.
Potentials of Blockchain Technology as applicable in Healthcare
Efficient Health Information Exchanges
Blockchain technology can provide a new, unique model for HIE (health information exchanges) by ensuring that medical records are more secure, disintermediated, and efficient. There’ll be investments and experiments to test it out before it is fully adopted.
With blockchain technology, the transfer and distribution of medical records is made more efficient, both within and without a country’s medical infrastructure. Thus, costs are lowered considerably, and there is added support for medical tourism.
Because of its decentralized nature, no one holds a controlling monopoly on the distribution of the data. This way, it can be easily accessed by medical institutions and relevant professionals. As each transaction on the blockchain has a timestamp, the medical records cannot be altered.
Supply Chain Integrity in Drug Distribution
When incorporated into the medical supply chain, blockchain technology can improve transparency and traceability, providing minute and large-scale variations of transactions involving drugs and pharmaceutical products.
Already, companies like UPS, Walmart, and IBM use blockchain technology to optimize the integrity of the drug supply chain.
With blockchain technology, patients have real-time access to drug-related information at every stage of production and distribution.
When barcode labeling is integrated, additional features can be added. For instance, information on the recipient, availability, and quantity of drugs can be accessed.
This way, the blockchain has the potential to transform the healthcare system from a distended one to a centralized one with easily accessible, wide-ranging medical data.
Statistics have it that nearly 10% of medical costs are fraud. Blockchain technology has the potential to optimize healthcare billing systems, helping to reduce payment and processing time administration costs, eliminating the need for intermediaries.
In addition, blockchain technology can centralize all of the stakeholders in the healthcare system, including patients, practitioners and payers. Through this, the system becomes more efficient, and the manual processes become infallibly eliminated.
Just as well, it is possible for patients with insurance policies and long-term healthcare plans like Medicare to have their policies integrated into smart contracts. This way, bills can be confirmed automatically, speeding up cycle duration.
The medical world is still some ways off from adopting blockchain technology in the administration of its many processes. The potential is undeniable, though. Blockchain technology continues to evolve, and the extent of its potential is only speculated, at best.
However, the change will come in due course. And when it does, it will be for the better.