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Healthcare businesses all over the world are looking for suitable opportunities that will not only reduce cost but also provide enhanced and quality patient care.
The healthcare industry is evolving side by side with market-disruptive technologies with an increased demand and need for verifiable synced data. Companies are becoming more competitive and it is becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to be on top of their game amid disruptive market forces.
Technology giants like IBM have begun a comprehensive study on blockchain application development to understand the impact this technology has on the healthcare sector. Over half of the executives who participated in the above project from IBM are looking to implement blockchain in their operation sometime in the future.
In this post, we will provide insights into the challenges faced by the healthcare industry along with possible solutions as the healthcare industry merges with Blockchain. “What are challenges faced by healthcare today?” and “What does blockchain offer to solve these challenges?”
Challenges Faced by Healthcare Industry and How Blockchain Can Help
There are many challenges faced by the healthcare industry today and one of the greatest challenges as digital medical technology evolves is the transmission of patient data across a wide range of geographical locations without compromising security and privacy. This challenge brings about other concerns, some of which include the following.
Fragmentation of Data
The traditional healthcare system consists of a network of private and government organizations that have poor communication and structure between organizations. The medical system in the US is localized and fragmented. Since patient data is stored with multiple hospitals and doctors, it is fragmented and not easily shareable as a comprehensive historical record.
Researchers and healthcare professionals are working in tandem to implement a concise solution. According to MIT Research Lab, a Blockchain-based system will enable some of these organizations to exchange data in an efficient and secure manner and can help to address the fragmentation of data. Blockchain technology can be used to generate trust and make data readily accessible to authorized users in decentralized networks. As a result, in healthcare blockchain technology can provide data more available over existing technologies.
Data Security is one of the critical most concern in the IT industry. In the first quarter of 2018, around 1.13 million patient records were compromised with 110 data breaches.
Blockchain is a technology that prevents the tampering of any data as it ensures the security for this highly confidential data.
Patient privacy is protected by the digital identity of the blockchain. There can be an impact on how patients monitor their own health data. Patients who are part of the blockchain would then be able to approve or deny any sharing or changes to their data, helping to ensure a higher level of privacy and control.
Blockchain technology organizes data so that transactions can be verified and recorded through the consensus of all parties involved. It is perhaps best known for being used in the Bitcoin world as having an authoritative ledger that records and audits events.
For healthcare, this means that any data entered into a computer system or EHR/EMR can have each transaction or entry validated. This could include anything from a financial transfer to an update to an individual’s personal health record. Each new actions can be verified against an authoritative ledger of previous events.
A blockchain-based application can achieve better consensus on patient data. Blockchain could enable five of seven EHR functions to completely disappear from hospitals’ control. This can include user authentication, physician credentialing, coding, reimbursement, and records retention.
The patient-provider “matchmaking” function of current EHR systems could be handled by patients themselves. The authenticity of a patient is determined by a patient’s medical record and their treatments. Physicians could reach into patient records directly based on their credentials.
Currently, the global healthcare system is localized in nature. There are many developing nations, where paper-based systems still exist. A global patient data consensus can be reached with a blockchain-based solution.
Billing and Fraud Prevention
Blockchain-based billing is great for the Global healthcare system. Lack of transparency in the healthcare sector has made it vulnerable to insurance and billing fraud. This has escalated into tens of billions of dollars in money lost.
A report from the Harvard Medical School states that $ 455 billion has been lost because of fraudulent activities in Global healthcare.
The global healthcare system needs authentication and verification capabilities that the Blockchain-based application offers. Because all medical costs and procedures could be made accessible in the context of a patient’s medical treatment, blockchain can likely reduce the incidence of fraud and errors.
Blockchain technology can prove to be beneficial for medical research. It enables real-time monitoring of the experimental drug results.
Currently, the system in place makes it impossible to act in real-time.
The ability to remove intermediaries from a process sets Blockchain apart from other technologies. Real-time capability will allow medical researchers to facilitate real-time claims by replacing intermediation with transparent Blockchain technologies. Results will be unalterable.
Blockchain can ensure continuous availability and access to real-time data. Real-time access to data would improve clinical care coordination and clinical care in emergency medical situations. Real-time data would also allow researchers and public health resources to rapidly detect, isolate and drive change for anything that impacts public health.
Counterfeiting of drugs have resulted in losses of over $200 billion. Blockchain technology helps the patients to verify whether the drugs are legitimate or not. Moreover, the blockchain can be programmed in such a way that patients can view manufacturing and date details.
In existing solutions, there is a central authority that can be compromised and documents can be faked. Current solutions can be modified with blockchain enabled, anti-tampering capabilities during manufacturing.
Blockchain may be one of the most promising technologies, but it cannot solve entirely all the problems of the Global healthcare industry by itself.
One solution lies in embracing other technologies or working in tandem with other technologies, like the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the automated clinician workflows.
Blockchain can be beneficial for the healthcare professionals to pursue activities like seeing more patients in addition to better patient-doctor relations.
Telemedicine will enable doctors to reach out to patients all over the world – with videos and encrypted messages.
Verification systems are cost-effective solutions along with other useful features like compliance, security protocols and tracking and tracing.
Some of the key challenges associated with the adoption of blockchain and DLT in healthcare have to do with the early stage of the technology. These issues include few successful use cases, slow transaction speeds, lack of scalability, and limited storage capacity.
Though there are many adoption challenges, early adopters already see the benefits of using blockchain technology and are working on various promising projects. Any challenges we face today can be overcome and blockchain will eventually form a foundation for many innovative healthcare programs in the near future.