But it’s the adoption of blockchain technology in healthcare that seems to hold the most promise, plotting a new trajectory for how medical institutions detect diseases, treat patients for better health outcomes, and manage healthcare data safely and more efficiently. Here, we take a look at some of the key benefits of blockchain in healthcare and five of the most prominent ways in which healthcare organisations are harnessing it to revolutionise caregiving.
There are myriad benefits of blockchain. As a healthcare technology solution, in particular, it offers transparency, security, and efficiencies provided by the technology are enticing. Below are just a few of the pros and cons of blockchain adoption in a healthcare setting.
Patient medical records are, at present, dispersed and disorganised, leaving them open to the possibility of being mismatched or duplicated. EMR databases are also built around different schemas, making it incredibly difficult to unify datasets. By using blockchain, healthcare institutions can avoid these discrepancies since whole datasets can be hashed into the decentralised ledger, making them available for all to search. This means that a user could, for example, look up an address and, regardless of whether there are multiple addresses or multiple keys, the same patient details would be returned.
With the proliferation of IoT devices and the surge in demand for remote healthcare solutions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the medical sector needs to implement solutions that protect the vast volumes of sensitive patient data that are being transmitted. Blockchain technology can enable smart contracts which carry out automated and secure analysis of medical sensors and create a log of all data transmitted on the blockchain.
By using blockchain-enabled smart contracts, healthcare organisations can facilitate real-time patient monitoring and initiate any necessary medical interventions through patient/clinician notifications. Furthermore, blockchain’s transparency and incorruptibility can ensure compliance with regulatory requirements including HIPAA, by keeping a secure record of all activities and responsible parties.
As of 2020, approximately USD $2.6 billion was lost to healthcare fraud annually—a modest estimate, some would argue. The Journal of Internet Medical Research published a recent study on how blockchain technology for healthcare, in combination with tools such as AI algorithms, could be used to combat medical fraud, due to the incorruptible nature of DLT. By harnessing blockchain technology, health insurers can accurately track claim submissions and handling in real time, across multiple parties. And smart claims contracts can create a detailed and unfailing audit trail, thus spotlighting untoward activity and reducing fraud prevalence.
One crucial area of improvement for the medical industry is the testing and development of new drugs and treatments; an area which is, at present, incredibly inefficient and expensive. According to the World Economic Forum, name-brand drugs, while only accounting for 10% of pharmaceutical prescriptions, are responsible for USD $200 million in clinical trial costs.
Clinical drug trials are hampered by lengthy timelines, participant recruitment, lack of staff, inefficient data analysis, and so on. With blockchain, physicians, researchers, and pharmaceutical clients can access information in parallel, significantly speeding up the process of drug development. Meanwhile, blockchain-enabled patient/condition matching allows clinicians to recruit trial participants in a fraction of the time. This, in turn, could save pharma companies around 25% in drug development time—equating to an estimated USD $273 million over the course of a typical ten-year development cycle.
One of the core promises of blockchain is its ability to enable interoperability, making the process of sharing important medical information as seamless as it can be. In terms of patient EMRs, blockchain allows data to be shared easily between one healthcare provider and/or system and another, in a straightforward and standardised way. This, in turn, prevents delays and streamlines operations to significantly reduce administrative costs.
The potential for blockchain technologies within healthcare information technology doesn’t end at what we’ve discussed here. There are a plethora of other important applications in which blockchain can and is making a real difference in healthcare delivery. But, while blockchain has many advocates and is undoubtedly opening up many new possibilities for the medical industry, there are still some legal, ethical, and technical hurdles to overcome where patient data is concerned. Once these challenges have been comprehensively addressed, there’s little to stand in the way of the widespread adoption of blockchain software in healthcare.
Ready to revolutionise your healthcare organisation? Speak to ELEKS’ experts today to find out how blockchain can help.
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