Healthcare spending worldwide continues to go up, while services tend to stay the same. The list of flaws is never-ending:

  • unorganized administration
  • drug counterfeiting
  • patient data spread between parties
  • ineffective clinical trials

Blockchain technology, which continues to find uses throughout multiple industries, has the potential to advance the outdated healthcare systems currently in use. Blockchain can bring about the necessary changes the global healthcare sector desperately needs:

  • decentralizing electronic health records (EHR) and healthcare professionals’ credentials
  • tracking the production of medications
  • increasing data security
  • shortening the data trial process

Decentralizing Electronic Health Records

A trip to a hospital these days might seem like a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Think about all the waiting involved at the hospital. We wait in line to check in, sitting in the waiting room until a doctor is ready to see us.

When the doctor is finally available, they go through a list of questions concerning our’ health history. This severely inefficient process can be easily remedied with blockchain technology.

Another stumbling block is a patient’s electronic health records (EHR) that are often split among various healthcare providers. This means that each time a patient visits a new healthcare professional, doctors request their health history from the previous provider. The process itself can take a substantial amount of time, ultimately slowing down the entire process and resulting in long waits.

With blockchain, the whole patient’s health history can be accessible to each new doctor they see. Instead of data being kept isolated among various healthcare professionals, it can be distributed among them.

Cutting Out Counterfeit Medication with Blockchain

An estimated 36 million Americans have purchased drugs online without a prescription. The problem with this is that many of these drugs are unregulated, often being counterfeits.

Counterfeit medication is a common problem. Deaths related to counterfeit medicines can be over one million per year. Nearly 40% of American medications are made abroad, with 80% of the active medicinal components being imported. Patients have no idea how medications are made, what their active ingredients are, or where they were sourced from.

A simple solution to this problem would be the use of blockchain for healthcare in the supply chain of medicines.

Blockchains are unalterable, secure, and transparent. They can be used to track medicines from pre-production up until purchase. With blockchain technology, counterfeit drugs might become a problem of the past.

At the moment, the popular retail chain, Walmart, has begun requiring all of its leafy green suppliers to upload their data to Walmart’s blockchain system. The idea is to prevent foodborne illnesses from spreading (an example of this would be the US E. coli outbreak of 2018).

This same system can be utilized in the healthcare sector. By requiring manufacturers to upload data to a blockchain, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, doctors, and even patients will have the ability to see not only where a medication came from but also the origin of its ingredients.

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Increasing Healthcare Credential Transparency

Doctors are often the ones to hold our lives in their hands. However, most of the time we are uncertain of their credentials. There have been countless instances of deaths due to negligence in the healthcare system.

A study by John Hopkins Medicine shows that more than 250,000 deaths per year occur in the U.S. due to medical errors. And that is just in the U.S., while the global amount of deaths due to error are much higher.

Another common problem is that it might take a substantial amount of time for hospitals to collect potential doctors’ credentials, as they are often scattered across agencies. To solve these issues and streamline credentialing, Hashed Health, a healthcare company developing blockchain solutions, came up with the Professional Credentials Exchange.

It is a blockchain that provides members with both access to verified credentials and ways to contribute verified information for other members to see. This makes it much easier for hospitals to quickly access a doctor’s educational history.

Although confined to healthcare organizations, this system could be expanded to include patients. Blockchain can make it possible for patients to see a doctor’s entire medical history, including their failures and successes.

Decreasing Data Breaches

Due to the sensitive nature of patient data, healthcare organizations have the highest costs associated with data breaches.

According to the blockchain service provider OpenLedger, data breaches can cost health organizations up to 408 dollars per record exposed. Depending on how bad the breach is, this sum can rise exponentially.

This loss of personal data can lead to a loss of business. How can a patient trust a health organization with their health if that organization can’t even keep medical records secure?

Blockchain has a high degree of privacy and safety aspects. Data on a blockchain is often encrypted, and, if made private, only shared between proper parties.

Speeding Up Clinical Trials

Most pharmaceutical companies try to develop two to three new drugs each year. Unfortunately, clinical trials require a considerable amount of time to conduct, and failure is not allowed there. Another issue with clinical trials is that it can be increasingly difficult for pharmaceutical companies to target potential participants.

By anonymously decentralizing patients’ medical records through a blockchain, pharmaceutical companies would be able to more easily target patients who fall under the proper requirements needed for clinical trials. This would significantly decrease the amount of time it takes to find the participants.

Ultimately, this would result in lower costs in conducting clinical trials, thereby cutting the cost of medication for patients. Not surprisingly, three of the largest pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer, Amgen, and Sanofi, are currently working to utilize blockchain in the clinical trial process.

Better Insurance Policies with Blockchain 

Insurance is a major portion of the healthcare system. It can make or break a trip to the hospital. Insurance can take days, weeks, even months to acquire. This is mainly due to its reliance on paper-based systems which are prone to human error and often highly susceptible to fraud.

With its use of smart contracts, blockchain can automate insurance systems, thereby decreasing the time associated with insurance acquisitions from a matter of months to a matter of minutes.

At the moment, pre-existing conditions are highly debated within both the American and global healthcare systems. However, with blockchain, these conditions can be more easily tracked, and care can be provided in a quicker and more efficient manner.

As an immutable network, blockchain can also drastically decrease elements of fraud often found within the US healthcare system. Running mainly on paper, these outdated systems are prone to various amounts of human error. With the introduction of blockchain fully integrated into this industry, any human-related errors are to be drastically reduced.

Health insurance can be a stressful subject for all the parties involved – providers, patients, doctors. With blockchain that stress can be easily reduced as it provides the cure to many ailments the health insurance industry currently faces.  

Higher Efficiency Means Decreased Costs

Blockchain in healthcare can overhaul outdated systems in place. Its impact can be summed up as follows:

  1. It can make medication more transparent, thereby saving lives and money.
  2. It can streamline the credentialing process for hospitals, making hiring much more efficient and faster. This service could even eventually be expanded to include patients thereby positively increasing doctor-patient relations.
  3. By decentralizing medical records, healthcare providers will be able to operate faster and more efficiently. Eventually, patients will be able to access their medical records and potentially update them with each new development.
  4. With blockchain, patients’ healthcare records get much more secure, resulting in fewer breaches, which in turn saves healthcare providers more money.
  5. Quicker clinical trials could result in cheaper medications.
  6. Blockchain can help to speed up insurance acquisition, provide more visibility into pre-existing conditions, and rid the insurance system of human error. 

The possibilities for blockchain in the healthcare industry are endless. As shown above, blockchain and healthcare go hand in hand. Upon implementation on a worldwide scale, not only will blockchain save healthcare companies’ and patients’ money, but would also save the lives of many people. 

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