Blockchain Technology Beyond Currency Transactions — Digitalized Health
Current Issues With Systems of Healthcare
There are a variety of issues with the way healthcare data is transmitted and stored today. Quality healthcare services paired with the latest technology is needed to optimize the patient treatment process. Moreover, the healthcare system landscape is shifting towards a more patient-centric approach which focuses on two major elements namely, affordable treatment and apt healthcare facilities at all times.
Ensuring the healthcare sector is continuously innovating is not always feasible as a result of strict government rulings and regulations. While the sector aims for quality services and ensuring superior patient health management, government red tape can make it tedious to implement new technologies to improve the system.
The medical system is an extremely complex network of organizations, people and research entities with the common goal of improving the overall quality of life. This high level of protection establishes the patient as the priority in all areas. Although proper, the medical realm does not always function at peak efficiency. System changes and new devices take years to pass regulatory tests and validation checkpoints. Often the medical system is seen as slow-moving and difficult for startups to enter and make an impact
The existing healthcare ecosystem does not centralize critical patient data and information. Data is scattered across different departments and systems and is often not optimized or easily available in times of need. The existing healthcare ecosystem is not unified by complete transparency, security, and interoperability as current processes do not allow for smooth data management.
Many healthcare facilities today still depend on outdated systems of patient data management, holding little to no functionality for shared information between medical professionals. Many doctors maintain their own copy of specific patient medical data which work against creating an environment of increased security and transparency in shared medical data. Due to this, the cost of maintaining a patient-oriented business is increased considerably.
Through these current outdated systems of recorded medical history, health data and patient privacy has become massively concerning due to lack of security of patient medical history. Inefficient use of patient data is preventing healthcare organizations from optimizing the medical process, disallowing appropriate patient care and high-quality services.
Blockchain Reinventing the Organization of Patient’s Medical Data
“Healthcare is ready to adopt blockchain [technology] if you can demonstrate clear ROI,” said Solve.Care CEO Pradeep Goel. “This is not an issue of when blockchain will start working in healthcare. It is starting to work. … Once you have the right framework in place, then the use cases will flood in and that is what we are experiencing.”
Blockchain is one of the most disruptive technologies that has taken the world by storm. A blockchain is nothing but a distributed ledger that keeps track of transactions and activities happening throughout the network. Consisting of a block-by-block distributed ledger, that moves data through independent nodes –computers or servers– that register and approve the information, without the need for a relationship of trust between them. The information stored on a blockchain is absolutely secure in its entirety. In order for anyone to make a change in one block, it is mandatory to make changes to all the subsequent blocks after it.
Storing healthcare data using blockchain technology would reinvent the current practices of patient data transaction within the medical industry. Blockchains decentralized distributed digital ledger provides granted access to shared patient data for the utilization of medical professionals, needed for adequate treatment. Working to implement blockchain technology within the medical field would allow for increased transparency, security, and interoperability.
Blockchain could also be used to improve access to medical data for research purposes. Pharmaceutical companies could potentially offer to provide a blockchain network to share and distribute healthcare records in exchange for access to anonymized analytical data. The information extracted could be instrumental in identifying and refining new treatments methods.
Recognizing Blockchain tremendous impact within the healthcare sector is one thing, but there are a few variables that need to be taken into consideration before implication. Being that only a few of CIOs have blockchain technology on their roadmap, we need to understand the realistic applications of blockchain in healthcare.
1.) Organization of Patient Healthcare Data
The organization of patient medical history can be achieved through the implementation of Blockchain technology, for increased treatment security making all information known to medical professionals.
2.) Counterfeit Drugs
Developing countries, in particular, have a serious problem identifying and eliminating the use of counterfeit drugs within their healthcare ecosystem. Some of these drugs serve as placebos, offering no medical benefit. Others, however, actually have an adverse effect that could pose a serious risk to the patient’s life.
In a blockchain-centric healthcare world, drug companies would need to register their drugs in the private blockchain, which would be supervised by a neutral party. It’s this oversight that would ensure all parties with access to the blockchain are authentic and verified.
3.) Transaction Validation
Since the blockchain is a validation-based exchange, all transactions of data over the network would be verified agreeing upon the activity of each transaction and enabling security in the traceability of all information. Through this, it would allow for fewer errors from central authorities and frauds to take place.
4.) Supply chain management
Blockchains within the healthcare industry are based on contracts monitoring the supply-demand cycles over the network and work towards self — optimization analyzing the transactions taking place, and efficiencies in current regulations (contracts).
Blockchain Technology is dependant on the connectivity between networks and its interaction with one another. With the blockchain network being shared with authorized providers in a secure and standardized way, that would eliminate the cost associated with data reconciliation.
6.) Optimization of Clinical Trials
Blockchain Technology can be used to create a platform where altering or modifying data from clinical trials fraudulently can be eradicated. Utilizing this technology allows for maintaining the integrity of the research performed by the medical professional during the trial. Implementing regulations enacted by Ethereum’s smart contracts would allow regulation on access to patient’s medical data.
Holding properties like immutability, trustlessness, and decentralization, the distributed technology of blockchain provides the healthcare sector with opportunities to detect fraud, reduce operational costs, smoothen processes, remove duplication of work and apply transparency in the healthcare ecosystem.
Smart Distribution of Intellectual Property
Innovation, the discovery of new treatments and the development of medicines is the core activity and aims at meeting unfulfilled medical needs. This means that we work to find treatment paths, improved or new medication and more to help patients lead longer and better lives. Intellectual Property (IP) has enabled the research and development of today’s medicines and it will lead to the development cure and treatment of currently still unmet needs.
Healthcare IP is important for numerous reasons. For several entities, such as universities or pharmaceutical companies, it can represent millions, if not billions, of dollars in investment and research and development. Healthcare IP creates unity amongst current medical institution allowing for the distribution of new patient treatment methods and options through drug discovery. Blockchain works to enable and nurture data transactions creating easy access to these data types and ensuring the security of intellectual property.
Reliability in the Health Data Process
A health record system based on the Blockchain provides the universal collection of data without a centralized authority. Blockchain’s decentralization allows for authorized parties to have access to the collected health data. This creates an atmosphere of reliability as health data must proceed through multiple checkpoints for validation instead of a single gateway as currently in place. Currently, an electronic health record system involves an individual to make a single submission or data retrieval from the vulnerable portal with no multi-party validation framework. However, with the Blockchain, any changes to a health record alerts the patient of the change and their validation is requested. This creates a heightened level of security due to the decentralized verifications. As well, the time-stamped and customizable Blockchain can only be accessed or altered by those who have been granted access through a multi-step validation system. This ensures the data has not been tampered with and that the patient is included in every step of their medical journey as they are aware of all of the changes being made to their medical data. This helps to build greater trust between doctor and patient and removes the stress from the patient of needing to communicate results from one doctor to another.
For the Blockchain to be successful, there must be significant user trust. Both medical personnel and patients must believe that the data in a blockchain cannot be stolen or compromised. This means healthcare providers would need to provide a well-designed user education program to ensure patients are aware of how their data is being stored and what transparency they can expect. This helps to make patients feel that they also have more power in their healthcare, which can also increase trust between patient and provider.
Future Impact of Blockchain Within the Healthcare Industry
Although the lasting impact Blockchain has on the medical industry is massive, the potential for advanced healthcare services depend on the willingness of current medical institutions and organizations to create the technical infrastructure necessary for optimized health services. There are concerns from the healthcare sector today. For example, Blockchain is costly, integration with the existing technology may be difficult, and there is speculation about its cultural adoption as there would definitely be a need for provider and patient education. Yet despite these current hurdles and challenges, addressing problems of management, distribution, and optimization of critical healthcare data working towards enhancing the medical process with Blockchain implementation is a goal worth working towards.