Transforming Healthcare with Blockchain
Posted By Khushboo Arora | 06-Aug-2019
The healthcare industry is plagued by errors, bureaucracy, inefficiencies, and high administrative costs. To deliver a single healthcare service, healthcare providers need to access patients’ critical data which is typically scattered across different departments and systems. A hospital's administrative staff is responsible to accumulate the required data. However, a complex and sluggish information ecosystem renders the administrative staff struggling to collect vital data. Following are some stats that highlight the inefficiencies the healthcare industry suffers from:
The medical industry produces a lot of valuable patient data that can be used for treatment. Since the data is distributed across different networks it becomes difficult for healthcare providers to deliver appropriate care or necessary treatment in real-time. Drug counterfeiting is one of the major issues of the healthcare industry which leads to losses of around $200 million every year. To avoid such undesirable instances, a reliable and verifiable information tracking system is the need of the hour.
Blockchain technology has the potential to eliminate inefficiencies and inconsistencies in the healthcare industry. It can reduce the information gap between patients and healthcare providers by significantly eliminating the role of intermediaries. Blockchain solutions can connect fragmented systems to generate insights and enable healthcare professionals to serve their patients better. They can transform healthcare systems with better privacy, security, and interoperability of healthcare data. Blockchain technology creates a new model for health information exchanges (HIG) to enable stakeholders to access and store data effortlessly and securely.
A recent IBM study concluded that 16% of healthcare organizations implemented blockchain technology in 2018. It is estimated that this number may reach around 56% by the end of 2020. The functionalities of blockchain rely on three major principles. These blockchain principles establish a reliable base for secure and safe digital relationships. Here’s a detailed look at them -
Distributed Ledger: Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that can track activities and transactions happening across participating healthcare institutions. A distributed ledger updates the ledger in real-time with no central authority to maintain it. Network participants can update the ledger and changes will be reflected within seconds. Information stored in the distributed ledger remains secure and it cannot be altered or deleted.
Authentication: Authentication is the next principle of blockchain. Blockchain authenticates transactions before they are added to the chain. The authentication process is led by algorithms that verify and validate transactions. Once the information is digitally signed, stored and encrypted, the authenticity is sealed.
Private key cryptography: Private key cryptography uses a secret key as a variable along with an algorithm to encrypt and decrypt the code. The secret key is retained while the algorithm is not. Blockchain uses private keys to establish a secure connection over an unsecured network like the internet. The private keys can be used as digital signatures to deliver confidentiality, authenticity, integrity, and non-repudiability.
The benefits of implementing blockchain in healthcare are as follows -
Safe and Secure Access to Data
Implementing blockchain in healthcare can enable administrative staff to store, save and secure large chunks of data. It stores data across a vast network of computers, helping users maintain a secure record of transactions. Leading hospitals are using blockchain technology to store critical healthcare data. Data on the blockchain is backed by private security credentials, preventing chances of frauds and data theft.
Reduces Time and Efforts
Blockchain has the capability to keep data well-maintained, organized, portable, well analyzed, available for an authenticated request, and consistent for medical service providers. Since the entire data gets sorted automatically, the chances of unwanted delays and errors are reduced. The data can be accessed on demand so doctors can instantly provide well-informed care to their patients.
Typically, healthcare organizations maintain patient records in paper files. It results in accumulation of data which is either duplicate or difficult to access. With a blockchain solution, everything can be accessed online with enhanced accuracy. Since blockchain solutions store data online, any information related to patients such as reports and medical history can be easily accessed online by healthcare providers.
Blockchain technology brings more accountability to the healthcare supply chain with transparency, interoperability, and immutability. It enables pharmaceutical companies to register their products on the database and trace their movement from provenance to end customers. Blockchain significantly eliminates counterfeit drugs, improves security, and mitigates other vulnerabilities.
Blockchain is making a huge impact across several industries including healthcare. Industry experts are exploring possibilities to replace traditional healthcare processes with blockchain.
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