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Blockchain technology is not restricted to the world of cryptocurrencies. The healthcare industry stands to make huge changes as a result of how blockchain tech operates. But before we reveal the 5 ways in which the healthcare industry can leverage blockchain technology, let us first give you a crash course in what the buzz is all about regarding blockchain.
What Blockchain Is
According to Digital Authority digital currency led to the creation of the blockchain. The issue with digital currency comes from the ability it had to be double-spent. Blockchain resolved the issue of digital asset ownership with a process that includes public recording of each transaction. Transactions are time-stamped and impossible to alter in any way and are bundled in blocks.
Each of these blocks is secured with very complex cryptography. Several networks of computers share these blocks and the blockchain’s history must be matched and agreed upon by each of the networks.
As an example, one user who attempts to change the blockchain with an edit of some kind will be stopped as all the other computers in the network will reject the edit. Think of blockchain as multiple layers of security that involve a whole lot of computers.
So, how exactly can the healthcare industry leverage blockchain? You’ll be surprised to learn that there are at least five ways that can be done currently. They include the following:
1 – Smart Contracts
Probably the biggest change to come to healthcare from blockchain will be a drop in healthcare costs. A smart contract is one such innovation. What it boils down to is a document that specifically denotes how money – which is identified as tokens – can be spent. This can cover a wide variety of costs but ultimately eliminates the need to go through insurance which translates to less cost for healthcare services.
2 – Telemedicine
This is an exciting way to communicate with a medical professional. MedCredits, which is the first medical blockchain, is synced to a medical app such as Hippocrates. That app will connect a doctor to their patients. When a patient opens a case file they would send in the required information to their doctor via the app. The doctor would review the information, form a diagnosis and send back treatment options.
When payment is due, the patient can use one of the existing medical payment tokens to cover the cost through the Ethereum blockchain, which supports smart contracts. Invoices, along with bank balances, can be automatically processed with full transparency. It is interesting to note that the first medical cryptocurrency currently gaining ground in such telemedicine applications is CoinHealth, which will pave the way for future blockchain uses in the healthcare industry.
3 – Patient Data Decentralization
A patient who must see different specialists who are all in private practice makes sharing of their data complicated at best. With blockchain, a decentralized system can be developed that focuses on the patient rather than the data holder. In other words, a shared database of patient data results which is easy to share and access with the medical professionals who require access to the information.
This becomes vitally important in urban centers where there will be multiple systems in place. With multiple systems, you will also find that no standard can communicate cross-platform to all of the systems servicing just one urban region. Blockchain completely cleans this up with just a single system in place with all data in one language that can be shared across the entire region for multiple healthcare providers to access.
4 – Clinical Trails
Smart contracts control who has permission to what as far as patient information is concerned. Essentially only the doctors who are involved in the care of a patient can edit the data on file, but other doctors can see that information. Where this becomes a huge benefit is with clinNsical trials as blockchain can store all this data or even software as a medical device trials (great intro to this emerging field here). Still, only specific doctors will be able to edit information but other doctors can review clinical trial results making research on such matters easier.
5 – Drug Traceability
Remember the basic mechanics behind blockchain? It is built upon transaction data that is not only time-stamped but can only be edited by those who have been granted permission. With this kind of system in place, tracing drugs will be efficient and can eliminate counterfeiting. That would be because each transaction from the manufacturer would be recorded which would make following a trail of evidence far easier.
When you consider that fake drugs cost US businesses upwards of $200-billion per year and that 10 to 30-percent of the drugs coming from developing countries are fake, there is a problem. However, with blockchain technology, drug manufacturers can trace where their product goes which can halt the flow of fake drugs.
Blockchain technology will have a huge and positive impact on the healthcare industry. The main benefits will come from how individual patient data is shared with medical professionals and how patients will be paying for their services. Blockchain technology has even earned a place in the healthcare industry by securing drug transactions and protecting all data from hackers.
According to HealthcareWeekly, the benefits of this new technology is how clinical trial information will be shared. At the very least, the percentage of recorded trail data will increase which means more doctors will be able to use the information that could have otherwise been lost due to a lack of space to record and store it. It is rather interesting that when blockchain tech was first developed it was to verify digital currency transactions.
It is highly unlikely that the developer of blockchain – Satoshi Nakamoto – had even considered its use in other applications. However, the security features alone make blockchain technology a natural fit for use in the healthcare industry. The five ways listed above are just the start. Expect bigger and better things from blockchain applications within the healthcare industry at all levels of care and medicine use.