The massive potential of the blockchain technology promises to re-frame and re-define the healthcare ecosystem with data management, interoperability, and securing crucial information. Data breaches, inefficient patient record management practices, traditional insurance claims processes, complex billing, counterfeit drug manufacturing, are some of the few challenges faced by the rapidly growing healthcare industry.
The rising competition and challenges faced by the pharmaceutical and healthcare market have spurred the need for rapid development and changes. The healthcare industry is looking for solutions that can improve security, reduce costs and create a secure framework of communication between different partners and agencies.
The other issue facing the healthcare industry is the skyrocketing operations costs due to inefficiencies in the overall process. Healthcare companies spend massive resources purchasing and building EHR systems to manage their patients and billings. However, when it comes to data retention, security, logging and data sharing most EHR systems come up short.
The Blockchain technology has created a solution for the mismanagement and security-related issues and various healthcare industry concerns with its massive potential.
According to a recent study the value of the global healthcare blockchain market is expected to rise to $890 million by the year 2023.
Some ways in which the blockchain technology is helping the healthcare industry:
There are already signs that blockchain is starting to be adopted in the healthcare industry. While most of these projects are still in pilot, they are showing a lot of promise.
EHR management or Patient Data Management
The electronic health records (EHR) help the doctors to get quick access to the patient’s history and data, securely, quickly, easily. Hospitals and health care centers operate in chaotic environments, and having access to accurate patient history is a major part of their work. have to deal with chaotic environments all around the year, and especially doctors who are required to scan through the patient history to make an accurate diagnosis.
So, with the help of the comprehensive EHR, doctors can access the patient’s history instantly. However, adding blockchain to the EHR systems will ensure that the data that they are accessing is correct and has not been tampered with improving medical outcomes.
Additionally, with blockchain, the health records can be securely shared across different health systems between each party in an efficient immutable method.
The ability to quickly exchange and access patient data, including personally identifiable information (PII) securely is what sets blockchain apart from a standard EHR system. PII data can include name, date & place of birth, medical history, conditions, and allergies. Another benefit to using a blockchain based EHR system is the ability to have complete visibility to any access or changes to the patient data – a key requirement of HIPAA.
Electronic Healthcare Information Exchange (HIE)
Data exchange would be easier, faster, cost-effective, and transparent in a distributed blockchain environment. Since most EHR systems are in a closed loop environment data sharing between systems is not common. This means that information between different hospitals and doctors offices is not always shared. This means patients visiting doctors outside their own network, will not be able to share their medical information with those doctors. Even to this day many medical facilities use archaic data exchange methods like fax to exchange patient information. However, with a secure private blockchain network hospitals can securely exchange patient data.
Protection against Data Breaches
According to a research study by the Department of Health and Human Services, around 176 million data breach cases were reported between the years 2009 to 2018.
This means that hackers were able not only healthcare information of the patients, but also PII data such as social security number and address. With the help of blockchain technology, decentralized, incorruptible, and transparent data, log maintenance of the patients is possible.
The technology offers safe, secure, and swift sharing of data between various parties without letting the perpetrators break-in. The complex and secure codes help keep sensitive data safe.
Drug counterfeiting is one of the major issues facing the the pharmaceutical industry. According to the metrics released by the Health Research Funding Organization, around 30% of the drugs sold and circulated in the developed countries are counterfeit. Annually, the counterfeit market alone accounts for a $200 billion industry.
While manufacturing of the counterfeit drugs is done in countries like China and India, the primary target of these drugs is the American consumer. Studies by WHO estimates that almost 16% of counterfeit drugs are manufactured using the wrong ingredients. Around 17% of counterfeit medicines have the wrong proportion of ingredients in it. In the fake products, the quality and the quantity are compromised, which can result in deadly consequences.
The production of a drug includes a lot of steps like manufacturing, transportation, wholesale distributors and finally the local pharmacy and then patient. Blockchain can help at every stage of the supply chain to reduce this type of fraud.
To maintain the integrity of the supply-data, a unique hash or data code is produced by an individual at every level to upload it to the blockchain data. The hash stores crucial information about the product and that gets stored in the blockchain. Every time a drug moves from one level to another, with the help of the necessary information on the blockchain, the authenticity of the drug can be checked.
The groundbreaking technology ensures transparency at each level and the history of every resource in the supply chain.
Making Payments through Cryptocurrencies
Billing fraud is one of the largest issues that the healthcare industry is dealing with. One study showed that between 5-7% of all medical costs is associated with billing fraud.
Blockchain technology can help reduce the overall fraud in the system but providing better visibility to both medical procedures and patient data. The technology will bring a significant shift in the healthcare industry by decentralizing the process and removing third parties from the steps. This can eventually decrease administrative costs.
Conducting Safe Clinical Trials
The pharmaceutical sector requires clinical trials that help to determine the effectiveness, tolerance, long and short term side effects of medicines that they are bringing to market. This process normally includes a series of tests that are recorded in detail.
This information is then shared with research centers, government entities and other partners to evaluate the results and continue to incrementally improve it. In the process of conducting clinical trials, scientists, researchers record massive amounts of critical information that needs to be stored and share with others in the process.
Many clinical trials go unreported, and the rest are manipulated by big medical brands for personal profits, creating information gaps. So, in every case, a patient’s safety is put in jeopardy due to improper and insecure data management systems.
With blockchain, once the data, including the consent of the patients, test results, the data cannot be tampered with or changed without it being noticed by all parties. The data on a blockchain is time-stamped and unchangeable.
Easier Insurance Claim Processes
Blockchain can effectively contribute to streamlining the long insurance processes. With the help of this technology, the time-consuming, paper-based insurance processes are avoidable. With the establishment of the insurance firms, there has been a sudden surge in the reporting of fraudulent insurance claims.
What does the blockchain technology promise?
Every year new data is added to the health records of the hospitals, health insurance companies, which make it just more complicated to manage. Blockchain technology perfectly fits the gap in the healthcare industry that needs a data management facility with high security to avoid any data breaches. With technology, facilities are increasing, so is the need for efficient working.
Blockchain technology has a promising annual growth rate of 61.4 percent, and as predicted by the healthcare market, it will be a $500 million market by the end of the year 2020.
Summing up the ways in which the technology is contributing to the healthcare industry:
- Maintenance of the security and integrity of customer data
- Clinical trial data
- Helping in reducing the compliance and the regulatory costs
- Instant accessibility to personal health records
- Exchanging of the crucial health information exchange between the patient-doctor, insurance companies-patients, insurance companies-hospitals
- Keeping the data safe collected from, monitoring the IoT devices and the monitoring systems
There is a massive demand for the blockchain in the healthcare industry! The prolific changes it plans to bring in the sector by bridging the gap between transparent governance, efficiency, and interoperability, in the coming years is astounding. Many industries are now resorting to qualitative and quantitative methods of managing, securing, and exchanging data, which blockchain technology offers.