Blockchain Meets Healthcare
Recently cryptocurrency has been the talk of the town. Both Bitcoin and Ethereum prices have surged on the market. Additionally, respective companies who’s products support the cryptocurrency ecosystem have begun to benefit as well (e.g. AMD & NVDIA). In a recent Ted Talk, How the blockchain is changing money and business, Don Tapscott, explains the technology behind cryptocurrencies and how the next era of the internet is here and will change commerce as we know it. If that last bit may have peaked your interest, indulge me a bit further as I share my thoughts on what blockchain is and how it will play a role in healthcare.
Blockchain in its simplest form is a linear, decentralized storage system that allows digital information to be passed between parties without leaving footsteps in its path. Why this technology is so revolutionary is the precision and security it possesses. Spread amongst millions of computers and allowing for direct lines of digital transactions, a blockchain, is a series of blocks of information connected on a sequential chain in chronological order. Thus, in order to hack specific information, you would need to hack a block of information and all the previous blocks before that one within a short period of time to access said info… Virtually impossible. Tapscott will cover this and more about blockchain’s tech in the video linked above.
So where do blockchain and healthcare mesh? Ethereum’s differentiating feature from Bitcoin is that it utilizes smart contracts on top of the blockchain technology. Smart contracts are self-executing and allow two or more parties to engage in an exchange of services at a previously agreed upon rate. My mind was blown at this concept and the extent its impact could have on how we conduct business. The novelty of Ethereum is that it eliminates the middle man.
Let’s take physicians, nurses, psychologists or other licensed clinical professionals. Most work for an organization, a managed care health system which assumes risk on behalf of the practitioners and creates a marketplace where they can get paid a salary for their services. However, these same practitioners could offer their services outside of a hospital setting. Telemedicine e-visits, one-on-one therapy consultations over Skype and many other similar services have recently popped up due to the accessibility, freedoms and compensatory benefits working in a small to sole practice can have. With blockchain the “private practice” yields infinite opportunities. Any licensed professional can become a contractor, either individually or as part of a group/organization. Outlined with specific criteria, once met, blockchain fueled smart contracts will allow for appropriate clinicians and patients to continue exchanging services in an efficient manner. While there are many rocks that need to be turned over in this complex scenario (e.g. insurance, resource allocation, support, etc.) contractors are given the responsibility to provide authentic and valuable services. I predict that although the traditional private practice model may become absorbed my larger managed care organizations, the future version of private practice is just beginning and blockchain will support a economy of contractors.
There are many applications of blockchain technology across industries, what do you think blockchain can bring to healthcare? Leave your comments below and check out DokChain for an in-depth review.