The future of healthcare with blockchain

Blockchain technology was designed to provide a shared distribution ledger that securely manages data, without requiring any central authority. In the healthcare industry, where data is becoming increasingly pivotal, blockchain offers a leverage to improve medical healthcare systems. This compels healthcare providers to find innovative ways to apply blockchain in healthcare.

A 2017 IBM Institute for Business Value blockchain study, Healthcare Rallies for Blockchain, reports that, of the 200 healthcare executives from 16 countries that participated in the survey, 16% expected to implement a commercial blockchain solution in 2017, while 56% expected to by 2020. The healthcare industry is already aligning itself with the blockchain-powered future of healthcare.

For the pharmaceutical industry, blockchain may be the next technological revolution that will transform the future of pharmaceuticals. In the field of pharmacy, blockchain will provide a means to ensure supply chain integrity and facilitate the use of safe drugs. Chekkit is a typical example in this case. Drugs hold the keys to both life and death, depending on which drug you use and how you use it. Blockchain’s ability to achieve drug traceability will facilitate the tracking of drugs along the supply chain and provide end consumers with information on the integrity of the drug. Given the enormous counterfeit pharmaceutical industry today, and the deaths and medical complications that arise from the use of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, the application of blockchain in this area will be invaluable. 

Apart from saving lives, the reduction of counterfeit drugs will drastically reduce the 200 billion dollars that is lost annually by pharmaceutical companies worldwide, due to the production of counterfeit drugs. The recovered funds can be invested into the development of better drugs to improve global healthcare.

This is an era of data, and every industry is seeking to harness the power of data. The healthcare industry is not an exception. An average person lacks easy and secure access to their own medical records, even with the advancements in Electronic Health Record(EHR) solutions. With just a smartphone, most people can access their financial data and other forms of data. Blockchain will improve the accessibility of medical data, in a secure manner, just like that of every other kind of data that is readily available to smartphone users today. With just a smartphone, anyone will be able to carry their medical record with them, anywhere they go. This will provide the chance for patient engagement in healthcare.

This will also allow the medical records of patients to be accessed easily and securely, by any healthcare provider who needs it. Since the data is stored on a blockchain, its security is assured and, hence, cannot be tampered or accessed by just anybody. With the application of blockchain in this area, patients will have access to all their medical history across all healthcare providers that have attended to them. This data can be shared securely when they visit a new healthcare provider, which will eliminate confusion and serious complications that can arise from the duplication of healthcare records across different healthcare facilities. It will also eradicate the time wasted on trying to obtain the health records of a patient from their previous healthcare provider(s). 

The privacy of all medical data will also be guaranteed with blockchain. 

Additionally, since blockchain will facilitate the development of a singular health record system that cuts across EHRs, different regions and all medical history from the lifetime of a patient, AI can be leveraged to extract meaningful insights from a patient’s lifetime medical records to provide personalized recommendations that will improve the medical outcomes for each patient. Also, patients who are willing to, can offer medical researchers the access to their medical records. Blockchain will make this secure sharing of data very achievable. Their data would be used anonymously in medical research. This can improve the development of groundbreaking medical research and innovation. 

Health insurance is another aspect of healthcare that stands to benefit greatly from blockchain. Fraud is estimated to cost the insurance industry about 80 billion dollars annually, according to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud (CAIF). Blockchain-powered solutions can help minimize this. Through the use of smart contracts, health insurance providers can effectively determine if a claim is false or not. “Insurers face intensifying pressure to reduce administrative costs, an area where blockchain might make a big impact by modernizing fragmented legacy IT systems, improving efficiency, and bolstering competitiveness,” a Deloitte report says. Given the potential use cases of blockchain in health insurance, insurers have a lot to benefit. However, this gain is not limited to insurers alone, the entire healthcare industry will be given a huge boost with the integration of blockchain in healthcare services.

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