Any person who has worked in a hospital is aware of the problems in the healthcare system. From data breaches to monitoring the drugs and medical equipment. What if there was a way you could resolve these issues? Keep reading to find out how blockchain can improve these processes and thus advance the healthcare industry.

In recent times the healthcare is trying to take up a more patient-centric approach. In order to provide good facilities, they need to keep up with the latest technologies. The systems that are currently in place have been outdated, are way too expensive and don’t have the best security. The best way of tackling these issues is by introducing blockchain technology in healthcare.

Blockchain technology solves challenges in healthcare by providing decentralized trust Click To Tweet

icon What is blockchain technology?
It is a centrally controlled way to manage a network and is a publicly accessible ledger that that allows secure transfer of data.

Improve healthcare records

In most cases when a doctor treats a patient with a chronic illness or a recurring illness they need to consult the patient’s history. This can be difficult since history isn’t properly stored or managed. If the patient was in a different healthcare facility, they will have to transfer the patient history. Therefore causing delays in their treatment. These records can also be subject to human error which diminishes their integrity and authenticity.

The patient data is of utmost regard in a hospital. The patients, however, feel that this data privacy is not respected. A survey conducted found that the patients do not necessarily want to give broad consent for their personal data. This is where block technology can help the patient by giving them full control over their records.

How blockchain improves records

Blockchain technology such as Medrec allows the healthcare provider full access to the patient’s records without any trouble. It is able to store all of the patients’ information in one place. This information can include pictures, information about the patient’s condition and any medicine prescribed in the past. They use it for proof of work, auditing or documenting what procedures were done at what time. It can also prove that the documents are unmodified and complete.  Since blockchain has a proof of authority mechanism only the patients allow the sharing of all the information.This means that no third party can gain access to the medical record without the patient’s consent. With blockchain, you also get more accountability. That means any procedure that the doctor performs is traceable. Thus, you can be hold them accountable if a mistake occurs.

This ultimately will prevent mistakes in procedures, reduce delays and keep the data most secure and prevent data breaches. The main advantages of using blockchain technology in patient records are:

  • Easily share data
  • The traceability and accountability of the data
  • Privacy and ownership
  • Security and protection of data.

Have a supply chain to prevent counterfeit drugs

An adequate supply chain is a problem faced by individuals in every sector. However, in healthcare, they possess and even more crucial role. Any alteration in the supply chain of drugs can affect the patients’ health and may even cost them their life. A report from the Guardian states that due to the poor quality of medicine or fake drugs given led to 25000 deaths. A report by the WHO world health organization also tells us that 1 in 10 medicines in developing countries is false. This creates an urgent need for block technology which they can use in drug traceability.

Drug traceability is a process where you can track specific stages in the supply chain and track backward. Any new drug stores itself to the block will be time-stamped and be unable to be changed. This will better allow the healthcare system to make sure that nothing in the block is adjusted. The blockchain technology will also require pharmaceutical companies to register any drug to the blockchain. Private blockchain with centralized authority can then make sure that the companies provide proof that the drugs they supply are genuine and they can hold them responsible if something goes wrong. 

In addition to this, every block has a hash ID  next to it which will allow the drug traceability when it moves along the supply chain. This can help them determine if the medicine which reaches them passes all quality checks, the ingredients in the drug and the origin of it.

 libbs,in a visual diagram represent the supply chain process.

Traceability

Streamline data management in clinical trials

We need clinical trials for continuous growth in healthcare. The data provided by clinical trials are in need for research papers, academic journals and most importantly the data is required to get new treatments and drugs approved. In both cases, the integrity and trustworthiness of this data are important. For drug companies, this data will represent how much time and money they will invest in research and thus their profits are hugely reliant on this data. Any errors in this can cause them billions of dollars in losses.  There are 3 main reasons which can be a threat to these clinical trials and cause damage to the healthcare industry

  • Altered or lost data accidentally or by malicious intent
  • A published analysis is not a true representation of the planned analysis
  • Fraud committed by researchers by fabricating, manipulating or duplicating data

Blockchain technology can solve these issues in data breaches and management by using their distributed ledger model which allows full transparency in the record of the data. There are 3 ways that the data can be managed using blockchain.

How can blockchain solve these problems?

The first is a public network this can be viewed by anyone in the world and the information and anyone can send transactions to this network. This offers the maximum transparency however, this configuration has the least amount of privacy of the information submitted.

The second and third types of blockchains are consortium-based and private. These are the blockchains that a group of organizations or a single organization run or operate that allows only them access to the data. This does make the blockchain only partly decentralized but allows more privacy as the organization can determine who they grant access to.

Another issue faced by patients in healthcare is that they aren’t aware of the clinical trials currently running. A study showed that only 16% of the patients knew about relevant clinical trials that are running when they were considering options for their treatments. Blockchain technology can help them find these clinical trials that operate by asking the patients to store their medical data anonymously using blockchain on a public sector thus making it visible to prospective clinical trial recruiters. If the data is relevant to their trial, they would be able to reach out to the patient. Since the patient is offering their data voluntarily, it would also shift the control back to the patients on how they want to use it and who they want to trust it with.

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Prevent billing inaccuracies and frauds

The billing system in healthcare is far from great, although they do have a system set up to detect frauds, it still has a long way to go to even come close to a blockchain can offer. Every year many medical billing scandals rise which has cost millions of dollars in losses. Patients, doctors, and even insurance companies conducts these frauds. Medical coding is complex and can lead to many billing inaccuracies, duplicate bills, and incorrect fillings. About 5 to 10% of cases are still fraudulent and in 2016 a fraud of 30 million dollars was detected. The current system in place is not able to determine multiple cases of fraud at once and are more likely to miss a lot of fraudulent cases.

Since blockchains offer a completely decentralized plan it can aid in correct payment processing.blockchain will keep a record of all the transactions including all the procedures performed, treatments given, etc. this will prevent overcharging or charging for unperformed services by the hospital. There is thus a lower chance of fraud which will keep the costs lower.

Automating billing

Another way of keeping healthcare costs lower is by automating bill processing. Instead of hiring personal to manage and make the bill and automated machine could do it easily using blockchain technology.it will keep the account up to date and work much faster than any non-automated method. This will reduce the chances of human error and save money. Since they don’t waste money on finding which doctor gave what treatment to which patient. It will also further reduce any delays in the collection of payments by healthcare providers since the billing process will work efficiently and quickly.

Acceptance of cryptocurrencies

One more way that billing in healthcare can be improved is by accepting cryptocurrencies as payments instead of using normal fiat money. Cash payments have more risks involved then cryptocurrencies. You can track  Cryptocurrencies and even the transaction of a single penny needs to be authorized and give the back track of . In cash payments, it becomes difficult to verify any old payment that was made and exposes the patient to more chances of fraud. The annual rate for fraud in healthcare was about 100 to 170billion annually.

icon Fiat money is any inconvertible paper money that has no actual value and the only value is by its government and the parties that engage in exchange agreeing on its value

Assist in the growth of genomics

Genomics is the study of the structure, function and the mapping of your genomes. Genomics has gained a lot of traction since the rise of companies like 23andme and ancestry. They offer DNA tests that give us more clues into our history. They can be extremely useful to prevent genetic diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Huntington’s. It was impossible to do these genome testing before at 1 billion dollars. Since then it can improve and come to 1000 dollars making is much more feasible.

Blockchain technology is perfect for genomics as they can store billions of genetic points and keep track of them safely. In genomics it is crucial to give the right DNA result to the right customer and mixing up the results can have dire consequences. Blockchain can even serve as a marketplace where people can sell their encrypted genetic information to scientists who might be in need of it and they can receive this information instantly. Blockchain allows for this information to be transferred safely and securely. It make sure there are no data breaches and  unauthorized companies receive data.

genomics

This diagram from genetics and society shows how to use blockchain technology in genomics.

Conclusion

Blockchain technology can provide many benefits to the healthcare industry, it can better manage and keep track of data. It also makes many processes faster and safer. Most importantly blockchain technology is a  trusted source of this data in a time filled with mistrust and fraud. It is a credible and authentic source that can potentially help save lives and lower the cost of healthcare.

For blockchain to thrive it has to be accepted by the healthcare industry so these new technologies can thrive. If the technologies are adopted, they are sure to shake up the industry. Eventually they will pave the way for many more advancements in the future.

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