Bryant Nielson | May 24, 2023
According to an article published in Forbes, the United States is all set to spend around 20 percent of its GDP on healthcare in 2021. The challenges faced by the nation’s healthcare industry, as well as a global healthcare system at large, are well-known. From constant data breaches, ambiguity in medical research and clinical trials, skyrocketing hospitals costs, to complex billing, least patient adherence, and inefficient healthcare operational practices, the healthcare stakeholders, including patients and healthcare administrators, are under severe pressure to control their data and provide high-quality patient care at low cost, respectively. These current healthcare challenges, mainly revolving around inefficient medical records and data ownership, are urging a drive for innovation and greater efficiency. Blockchain is the answer.
The Rising Use of Blockchain in Healthcare
As revealed by Healthcare Weekly, 40 percent of the healthcare executives view blockchain technology as one of their top five priorities in the industry. The underlying technology of bitcoin is expected to alleviate many of the present challenges, benefiting both patients and healthcare administrators with seamless, efficient, and secure ways of saving and sharing data, settling claims, and accelerating medical research models. As per one research, the application of blockchain in healthcare could save the U.S. healthcare industry up to $100-$150 billion the year 2025 in data breach-related costs, operations costs, IT costs, support function costs, and manpower costs, and through a significant reduction in frauds and counterfeit product cases.
Blockchain Benefits in HealthCare
- Medical Records Management & Data Sharing
Medical record errors are the third key cause of casualty in the U.S. for cancer and heart disease. Most of the problem lies in the severe lack of transparency among medical entities and the incapability of hospitals to efficiently and securely share data. Electronic Health Records (EHRs) were never used to manage medical data among many institutions. During a lifetime, patients have their medical records in a myriad of entities, and from one health system silo to the next usually losing access to critical records. Also, with critical patient information being so expensive and complex to share, it’s not surprising to see that the flow of medical data is stifled — leading to higher risks of medical error and casualties.
Blockchain can significantly help the transfer of patient records among multiple health systems both locally and across borders, leading to strong coordination of health management members, lower transaction risks and costs, and even support for medical tourism.
A single entity cannot control medical data being saved on blockchains, as the data is distributed among many individuals and organizations. Every transaction has a time stamp and becomes a permanent record of the entire block that can’t be changed afterward.
- Empowering Patients with Smart Contracts & Accurate Record Keeping
According to the stats shared on Digital Authority, 86 percent of the mistakes made in the healthcare industry are administrative, patient charts cannot be accessible for 30 percent of hospital visits, while 1 out of every 4 patients, the medical records don’t arrive on time from a previous healthcare provider to the new one at the time an appointment.
Blockchain-based smart contracts allow patients to upload a single medical form on the blockchain network and share it with every new healthcare provider they see. Once a patient consults any physician and a treatment plan developed, the same can be added to the blockchain ledger being a part of the patient’s medical record. Then, a smart contract is developed using all the data of the patient’s case management. The contract expresses the framework of the patient’s treatment goals along with the rules defined in the smart contract to track and assess the patient’s progress. Once the patient’s file gets integrated into the blockchain, it provides accurate chronological data about the care provision and the patient’s response.
Another benefit is found where a patient’s health data is culled from social media applications and wearable monitoring devices and then uploaded to the patient’s blockchain ledger. Again, smart contracts can measure the patient’s performance in terms of their health goals. The remarkable thing is that anyone in the network, including the patients themselves, can view their data, but only when the patient gives their permission thereby eliminating the need for centralized control and decreasing the chance of PHI data theft.
- HIPPA-Focused Blockchain Solutions
The HIPAA Security Rule explains a risk analysis as a precise and detailed assessment of the possible risks and susceptibilities to the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of electronically protected health information owned by a covered entity or business associate. Organizations must consider the HIPAA compliance and state law implications of executing a healthcare blockchain solution.
As HIPAA has strict security and privacy standards for the use and revelation of PHI, using blockchain healthcare might bring challenges to HIPAA rules. As with any leading-edge technology, the practical implication of the blockchain in healthcare is ahead of the formal regulation and guidance, which comes from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) as trends keep developing.
The Final Thoughts
The future of blockchain technology in healthcare seems promising and growing. Like it or not, blockchain is sure to change patient management and healthcare administration in several positive ways shortly. Consider the information above if you’re interested in how the blockchain can impact the healthcare industry in the modern age.