Blockchain: How will it Refuel Healthcare Industry

The Blockchain is a shared & absolute ledger that facilitates in recording the history of transactions. It is a distributed and a write-once-read-only record of digital events in a chronological order that is shared in a peer-to-peer network. It is created using linked transaction blocks and warehoused in a digital ledger. Due to the linked transaction nature of Blockchain, it is almost impossible to counterfeit. It records transactions with each transaction assigned to its own block that becomes part of a chain. The record of the transaction is distributed to all computers on a network rather than being stored centrally. The most significant characteristic of Blockchain that differentiates it from other databases is that there is no centralized body like a government or bank that can regulate the data stored in it. The data stored in the Blockchain is shared publicly though the contents of each data is available only to those who have permission.

Coming to the healthcare sector, quality healthcare services is the basic objective which then leads to improved patient health management at a superior level. The countries are thus focusing on the healthcare sector and is a priority for them. The Wall Street Journal lately stated that the United States will soon spend close to 20% of its GDP on healthcare.

In the healthcare sector, important patient data and information remains disseminated across different departments and systems owing to which the crucial data is not available and approachable as and when required. Blockchain can come as a rescue for the healthcare sector due to its characteristics like immutability, fraud prevention and capability to share data between organizations without requiring trust. The major drawback of the healthcare sector today is that it is not complete since different players in the system do not have an arrangement for smooth process management. Here Blockchain can act as a helping hand by being the database for storing the scattered data. Furthermore, it is insufficient for the treatment and exchange of data and information. Other major issues of healthcare industry where Blockchain offers solution have been enlisted below:

Issues

Activity

Healthcare Data Interchange

  • Data must pass from  healthcare providers to necessary third parties, insurers, and patients while meeting data protection regulation in the healthcare sector

Nationwide Interoperability

  • Having a single standard for patient data exchange allows for ease of passing data between healthcare providers, which legacy systems often do not provide

Medical Device Tracking

  • Medical device tracking from supply chain to decommissioning allows for swift retrieval of devices, prevention of unnecessary repurchasing, and fraud analytics

Drug Tracking

  • As with medical devices, Blockchain offers the capability to track the chain of custody from supply chain to patients, allowing for frictionless recalls and prevention of counterfeit drugs

Source: Bell, L., Et al, 2018

Thus, major changes are to be inculcated in the system in the healthcare sector to make the data more assessable and approachable. So, Blockchain offers an innovative solution to the industry. It can thus make its mark on the healthcare industry, potentially transforming the way health data is stored, secured and accessed. Following are some of the benefits of Blockchain that make it appropriate to be used in healthcare:

  • Easy accessibility: Since all the information on a Blockchain is visible to every member of the network, this makes easier for the system to take required steps as and when required. It is authorized by people like patients, primary care physicians, specialists,  insurance companies and others involved in a patient’s care, This becomes highly usable in scenarios where healthcare providers want to share individual patient information among themselves e.g. when a patient is transferred to another institution. As per Forbes, for achieving this, the USA government provided over US$1.2 billion in funding to healthcare providers who work in the direction of use of Blockchain for consolidation of data.
  • Security: Since the data stored in Blockchain is decentralized, this makes it more secure and is less likely to be hacked. Further, the data stored is one time writable thus cannot be modified or altered. According to Forbes, the healthcare industry undergoes the highest loses in terms of the cost of breaches, that is around US$380 per single compromised patient record, which is 2.5 times the global average when compared to other industries. Thus, stopping data breaches in the healthcare industry is a major positive aspect of Blockchain that is increasing its popularity in the healthcare industry.

The application of Blockchain in the healthcare sector can be as follows:

  • Clinical Trials: Clinical trials and the organization of the consent of the trial’s subject are the fields where Blockchain has the possibility to upsurge transparency, auditability and responsibility of medical practitioners and researchers.
  • Data sharing and patient records: The benefit to medical practitioners is that records are easily accessible but hard to manipulate. The advantage for patients is greater confidence in the protection of their medical records and improved quality of diagnosis thereby improving the chances of better treatment.
  • Drug tracking: Drug tracking on the Blockchain is a prospect in the healthcare sector as it influences the immutability of the Blockchain to develop tracking and chain of custody from manufacturer to patient.

According to advisory consulting organization Deloitte, 35% of health and life sciences companies plan to start using Blockchain by 2018. So the technology obviously has many in the healthcare industry excited. Therefore, it can be stated that the use of Blockchain in the healthcare sector is the most positive disruption in the industry.