Technology and healthcare have always been closely intertwined – new developments in one always lead to astonishing discoveries in the other. However, it’s only in the past few years that it’s become evident how much new tech impacts healthcare.
Despite the widespread belief that technology is making people lazier and unhealthier, evidence suggests that even “harmful” things like smartphones can lead to a significantly healthier lifestyle. Groundbreaking technology like Blockchain can naturally have an even greater impact.
Explore the potential of Blockchain technology in healthcare and learn whether it has any practical applications or it’s just another theoretical conundrum.
Blockchain in a nutshell
Blockchain is nothing more than a distributed database built and maintained by all the servers and computers in the network. Its purpose is to record, validate, and store information, functioning like a digital ledger.
What makes it unique is the way it structures the data. Information is stored in batches, called blocks, that are linked to one another in chronological order. When a new block is created, it’s immediately linked to the one that came before it.
This seemingly insignificant feature is Blockchain’s strongest suit, making it impossible to alter a block in any way, especially once new blocks have been added to the chain. The information contained in the database is immune to any sort of tampering.
This feature is exceptionally useful for smart contracts (which we’ll discuss in a moment). Patients can enter clear-cut, intelligible contracts with their healthcare providers, insurance companies, and even legal representatives. They can devise an undisputable “airtight and carefully built estate plan” that can prevent any disputes in the probate process, for instance, according to the Werner Law Firm, Santa Barbara probate attorney.
At the moment, Blockchain technology is most commonly linked with Bitcoin cryptocurrency. However, it has immense potential in various fields, including healthcare.
Practical applications of Blockchain in healthcare
The broader adoption of Blockchain can completely revolutionize every aspect of healthcare, from how medical information is stored to how patients receive health insurance.
Take a look at just some of the main practical applications of Blockchain in healthcare.
Easier access to medical records
Data silos are one of the biggest problems in healthcare. Most patients have separate medical records between their care providers, making it impossible for healthcare workers to access their patients’ medical histories.
Without access to these documents, care providers could administer wrong treatments, make mistakes, and ultimately harm their patients.
Blockchain offers a solution to this problem, helping to keep all patient information in one place, easily accessible to medical staff. Every illness, injury, annual checkup, and treatment can be recorded and stored on the Blockchain.
Considering that only those with a key can access the information, a patient’s privacy is still guaranteed.
Smart contracts with insurance providers
Smart contracts between patients and health insurance providers are another practical application of Blockchain in healthcare.
In a nutshell, smart contracts are self-executing programs stored on the Blockchain. They’re automatically triggered when pre-defined terms and conditions are met.
By creating smart contracts between patients, health insurance providers, healthcare providers, and even pharmaceutical companies, it becomes easier to solve potential disputes and receive the previously agreed-upon compensation.
Patients don’t have to file lengthy paperwork manually, while insurance companies can find it easier to verify all claims. Smart contracts can improve transparency, automate insurance claims, and ensure the utmost fairness.
A surprising practical application of Blockchain in healthcare is disease prevention. While it’s still uncertain how effective it could be, it shows great promise.
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is looking to create a surveillance system that can monitor and report outbreaks in real-time. If such a system is effective, it could help keep healthcare providers better prepared, limiting the spread of disease and avoiding COVID-19-like outcomes.
Supply chain optimization
Blockchain technology can help healthcare providers and patients track, verify and ensure the authenticity of all medical goods.
Optimizing the pharmaceutical supply chain and ensuring the utmost transparency from the manufacturing point to the point of sale using Blockchain-based systems enables consumers to know what they’re buying and where it came from.
That can be especially useful in countries dealing with major counterfeit pharmaceutical problems.
Improved security in telehealth
Finally, Blockchain can be beneficial in improving the overall security of telehealth. As more and more patients start relying on smart devices to monitor their health and connect with their care providers, keeping patient data secure and private becomes exceptionally challenging.
However, with Blockchain’s advanced encryption and cryptography, this problem is all but eliminated. Blockchain encryption requires anyone who wants access to data to provide a unique key – without it, the data is incomprehensible.
Data stored on the Blockchain is incorruptible and impervious to data theft, man-in-the-middle, and DDoS attacks.
Blockchain technology could completely revolutionize healthcare. However, much of its potential is still largely theoretical. Until more healthcare providers and patients start using the tech, it will be impossible to know just how much of an impact it can make.