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8 Benefits of Blockchain in Healthcare

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Blockchain is the newest technology that’s changing the way businesses handle data management and exchange. Its revolutionary abilities have transformed industries ranging from finance to insurance to nonprofits, but its success across these different verticals has attracted the attention of the healthcare industry.

Better management, streamlined processes, and increased security are just a few of the shortcomings in healthcare that blockchain implementation can improve.  This technology can play a pivotal role in some of the most pressing issues in healthcare today, especially in terms of collaborative research, security, and transparency.

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain technology is a distributed ledger of digital events in chronological order shared on a peer-to-peer network. It records all the exchanges and transactions in the database. Because of the decentralized digital ledger, there’s no possibility of retroactive alteration of records or events within the ledger unless it’s validated by all users.

Blockchain’s three major components are:

  • Distribution: The decentralized, peer-to-peer architecture has nodes of network participants with shared copies of the blockchain.
  • Shared ledger: The users within the network record transactions into a shared ledger. Each possible transaction is verified by all parties, and once the majority validates the transaction, it can be added to the shared ledger.
  • Digital transactions: Digital assets stored in the blockchain are digital transactions, which are structured into a “block.” This block contains a cryptographic hash to add the transactions in chronological order.

Top 8 Benefits of Blockchain Technology in Healthcare

The healthcare industry has critical information distributed across multiple systems, though it’s not always accessible to the parties who need it. One of the major flaws in healthcare’s infrastructure is information exchange between stakeholders. Exchanging this information while ensuring data integrity and privacy are the unique strengths that blockchain technology is poised to tackle.

  1. Decentralized system: The contents of a database are stored in a system’s memory, which can be corrupted by any individual with access. The lack of a central database with blockchain technology allows each user control of their information and transactions, reducing the risk of corruption.
  2. Efficiency: Longitudinal patient records compile all vital information, including treatments and lab results. Streamlined data sharing across healthcare providers can provide cost-effective treatments and precise diagnoses. Over time, this can lead to better treatments and possible cures for many illnesses.
  3. Accuracy: The vast amount of information stored in electronic health records can lead to records becoming duplicated or mismatched. Electronic health records also use different schema for each field, meaning that there are different ways to manipulated data sets. With blockchain, the entire data set is within the ledger, so the provider will always find a single patient identification.
  4. Transparency: One of the biggest challenges in healthcare is monitoring. Blockchain technology documents transactions, which allows transparency and enhances precision, along with conserving resources. This can also help with insurance claims since providers can be automatically verified with less risk of fraud or errors.
  5. Collaborative research: Various healthcare providers are often involved in specific cases. With blockchain technology, collaborative research is more accessible and promotes innovation in the industry.
  6. Organization: Healthcare is a vital industry that requires accuracy and security. The potential for blockchain for integrated healthcare information and traceable records of distributed data promotes greater accuracy and stronger safeguards in overall security of sensitive information. In a pharmaceutical setting, blockchain can also track the movement of a drug to a patient, which lowers the risk of tampering.
  7. Workflow: Automated processes help healthcare providers maximize workflow and enhance employee productivity, leading to a better output in less time. This can keep the operational and administrative costs low as well, allowing better distribution of funds.
  8. Security: Healthcare research and development processes are prone to security breaches, not to mention that all collaborators need access to authenticated and updated information and data on patients. Blockchain can ensure the data authenticity with a digital signature, as well as providing ironclad security to sensitive patient or research information that could be exploited for malicious interests.

These are just some of the major benefits of blockchain technology in healthcare, though there are powerful implications for drug-supply management, claims management, supply-chain management, clinical research, fraud prevention, revenue cycle management, and a host of other processes within the healthcare system.

Possible Challenges

There’s no question that blockchain has immense capabilities in the healthcare industry, but that’s only possible with the proper technical infrastructure. The use of blockchain for enterprise is fairly new, can be costly upfront, and has unique challenges in the healthcare system, which gives some CIOs pause about integrating it into the existing infrastructure.

Electronic health records are one of the most significant challenges in implementing blockchain. Achieving a universal EHR blockchain requires common data standards, appropriate “middleware” for the blockchain ledger interface, processing power, and executive decisions regarding the data that will be incorporated into individual records.

To achieve interoperability, the data and storage need to be standardized. All health updates, from clinical diagnoses to test results, need to be sent to an encrypted ledger for a personalized record. Data protocols exist at this point, but not in a uniform, interoperable data system for healthcare.

The internet is built on such platforms as TCP/IP and a domain name system. Blockchain requires the development of innovative applications, or middleware, that uses blockchain-based coding infrastructures and creates accessible interfaces for providers and patients. Wide use of blockchain will help with this challenge, but this is an existing barrier.

Healthcare blockchain will also require an incentive to those that might invest processing power to a support network to harness its full capabilities. Whether this is given through the government or through individual participants, incentives are fundamental to the successful implementation of blockchain in healthcare.

The incredible volume of data within an electronic health record presents a challenge with a comprehensive, shared ledger. Each patient’s information would need to be stored on each node of the network, which brings into question the current level of processing power.

Blockchain Vendors for the Healthcare Industry

Though implementing blockchain in healthcare comes with different obstacles, there are many blockchain vendors with the flexibility and experience to find successful solutions for healthcare providers. Working with the existing IT team, vendors can help with a seamless transition and ensure the system is operational.

IBM Blockchain, for example, features an enterprise-ready platform specifically for healthcare blockchain, as well as a variety of other industries, to ensure that all the requirements of the healthcare industry are met.

SolveCare offers a global blockchain solution for coordination, administration, and payments of healthcare to simplify patient care, lower administrative burden, and simplify the payment system.

Digipharm caters specifically to the healthcare industry with the promise of value-based healthcare delivery through blockchain technology. Its innovative technology bypasses infrastructural limitations to enable flexible implementation.

These are just a few of the blockchain vendors that cater specifically to the healthcare industry. Depending on the needs of your organization, enlisting the expertise of an experienced blockchain vendor will help you face the obstacles present in healthcare blockchain and reap the benefits of this innovative technology.

While it may be difficult to show measurable impact in the healthcare industry at this point, blockchain is slowly making its way into many industries, and it has the potential to completely revolutionize the landscape of business operations. In healthcare, opportunities exist to transform electronic health information, data ownership, and supply chains for transparent, digital, secure, and immutable data that’s controlled by providers and their patients.

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