How blockchains will transform healthcare (infographic)
Posted 15th May 2020 by Joshua Sewell
Check out this guide to learn more about the potential impact of blockchains on the medical and healthcare sectors.
Up until recently, blockchain technology was typically associated with the cryptocurrency sector. However, more industries are beginning to explore the exciting possibilities this tech has to offer them, and the world of healthcare is no exception. In fact, the global healthcare blockchain market is expected to hit $5.61 billion by 2025.
What Are Blockchains?
Blockchains are distributed systems that log transaction records on linked blocks on an encrypted digital ledger. They are decentralised: there is no need for a central administrator. This helps to enhance security as records are spread across a network of replicated databases that are constantly in sync. Users are only able to update the block they have access to, and any updates get replicated across the network. Blockchains encourage transparency as all entries are time and date stamped.
Who Could Use Blockchain?
- Healthcare providers (i.e. hospitals, clinics, medical professionals) may be able to use blockchains to manage patient records thereby streamlining processes and enhancing efficiency.
- Patients will benefit from this improved quality of service.
- Blockchain may prove to be quite useful for health insurance companies and customers alike.
- Experts speculate that the industry side of healthcare (e.g. Biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical technology companies) could also enormously benefit from blockchain technology.
How Blockchain Improves Interoperability
The most comprehensive definition of interoperability is provided by HIMSS:
“The ability of different information systems, devices and applications (‘systems’) to access, exchange, integrate and cooperatively use data in a coordinated manner, within and across organizational, regional and national boundaries, to provide timely and seamless portability of information and optimize the health of individuals and populations globally.”
Ensuring a smooth flow of information between parties has long been a pain-point within the healthcare industry. Patient data is often spread across multiple hospitals, clinics and doctors. For example, in Boston, there are 26 different electronic medical record systems used across the city, meaning important information is scattered across multiple facilities.
As such, a large amount of time and resources are swallowed up by admin tasks such as requesting, sending, receiving and compiling patient data. The implementation of blockchain technology will facilitate greater information sharing and collaboration, thereby accelerating the treatment process and improving the patient experience.
Blockchain Empowers Patients
Blockchain also benefits patients in that it gives them greater ownership and control over their personal medical data.
The blockchain will enable patients to aggregate their data from a variety of sources. It will also allow them to choose what information they share with their healthcare providers as any party seeking patient data would have to check with the blockchain to get the necessary permission.
This democratisation of data will empower the patient by giving them a more active role in their own healthcare. This also has financial benefits as it will also help to rule out expensive “middleman” services.
The Question of Privacy
One of the defining characteristics of blockchains is that they are public. In other words, everyone can see everything on a blockchain network. As such, data protection poses one of the biggest legal challenges around the use of blockchains in healthcare. Strict data protection regulations such as GDPR in Europe and HIPAA in the US means that healthcare providers must handle patient data responsibly.
Furthermore, people today are more privacy-minded and would not want their entire medical history to be known. Ideally, a healthcare blockchain would only authorise access to licensed, practising and insured doctors.
Blockchain in Healthcare: A Case Study
In 2012, the small Baltic nation of Estonia started using blockchain technology to secure healthcare data and process transactions. Seven years on, all healthcare billing is dealt with on a blockchain and 95% of health information is ledger-based. This has helped to vastly improve the cost-effectiveness, sustainability and efficiency of the country’s healthcare system.
Discover More About How Blockchains Will Affect the Healthcare Industry
If you are interested in this subject and would like to find out more, then we recommend reading the below infographic which comes courtesy of the team at Study Medicine Europe. This guide provides a jargon-free explainer of blockchain and offers an insight into how this tech could be applied within the healthcare sector to address key pain-points. It also features some insights about how the use of blockchains will affect patient privacy.
Aris Grigoriou is a Student Recruitment Manager at Study Medicine Europe.
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