Blockchain in health care
Blockchain technology has been a great game changer since its invention. Several industries are adopting this technology to streamline their functioning, and the healthcare industry has not been left behind. It is with no doubt that blockchain in health care could unlock great potentials in the health sector.
It is an excellent tool for promoting interoperability and even reducing the costs involved in the provision of health services.
Blockchain and healthcare is a perfect match that should be appreciated by all stakeholders, especially during these times, when there is a rampant increase in health data insecurity.
Currently, blockchain technology has received great attention in healthcare with research showing that almost 40% of health executives have blockchain as one of their top priorities.
It is expected that healthcare spending on blockchain may hit a high of $5.6 billion by the year 2025. It is essential to point out that through the use of blockchain, the healthcare system will be able to save up to $150 billion annually on costs such as operation costs, personnel costs, fraud, counterfeit drugs, and data breach-related costs.
What is blockchain?
A blockchain is a system that’s used to record and store records in a distributed manner safely. The blockchain system is shared, and the transactions are stored in a digital ledger that’s immutable. It uses cryptographic technology to enable interaction of users on the network without breaching trust between the parties involved.
Blockchain is usually decentralized meaning there is no central governing authority, though you may sometimes see private blockchains which may be centralized among parties involved. However, any interaction with the blockchain, i.e., the addition of information has to be verified by the network.
In this article, we are going to discuss the areas where blockchain applies to health care. They include:
1. Medical data
Management of patient data is currently a matter of great concern because of the increase in the number of patients who are sensitive on how their personal information moves hands.
There is more data volume to be managed, and most centralized systems presently in place have proven to be ineffective with reports of cybersecurity crimes on the rise.
With the current increase in patient numbers and patient data, healthcare providers are now handling more health data regularly. As the volume of data increases annually, it becomes harder for health care organizations to process and store information.
Blockchain comes in handy in protecting medical data and also ensuring the integrity of the data. Blockchain provides data security by anchoring it to a public blockchain where proof of data integrity is generated. Users can use this proof to access data and verify its accuracy without having to rely on third parties.
By so doing, users can ascertain PHI integrity, audit medical records, and examine results from clinical researches.
Many people are dreary of using blockchain in hospitals since it is accessible by almost everyone, therefore, raising doubts if it follows HIPAA policies.
However, it is through the use of blockchains that hospitals can become less susceptible to hacking attacks, and medical providers will be able to share and update medical records with ease.
2. Drug Traceability
Counterfeiting of drugs is a severe problem in the pharmaceutical world. The Health Research Funding Organization reports that more than 15% of medicines distributed in developing countries are counterfeit.
Blockchain helps to solve these problems by making transactions immutable, which makes it easy to detect any illegal drug production activity.
It is recommended that healthcare companies register their products in private blockchains for increased authenticity and quality of the drugs they produce. A central entity moderates private blockchains, and only the producer has access to the drug blockchain, which is used as proof of authenticity.
The path followed by drugs from the producer to retailers is recorded on the blockchain, making it easy to verify whether or not tampering has occurred to the drug.
3. Data Security in Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are used to test the performance of new drugs created to treat specific diseases. During the trials, a lot of information regarding the performance, side effects, etc. is recorded and controlled by the scientists. As a result, it becomes possible for scientists to alter data recorded to give an outcome that’s in their favor even if it is dangerous to human health.
By using blockchain technology, results from clinical trials can be more authentic. As already mentioned, records stored in a blockchain are immutable, meaning they cannot be altered. Immutability ensures that results from clinical trials are not changed at any stage after being fed into the system.
4. Patient access
Blockchain technology enables patients to access and control their medical records. Since the records are stored on blockchains, they are traceable, which reduces cases of missing data and falsification of medication.
Also, patients can also grant access to their medical access to doctors who will only get access to the specific information the patient is willing to share, hence increasing privacy of patients.
Most healthcare centres use electronic health records, which are quite costly and lack interoperability. Lack of interoperability creates a communication barrier between the EHRs hence, surgeons and other health practitioners end up treating patients without accessing their medical records.
In most cases, such records influence how a patient should be handled, and missing them can lead to the wrong administration of treatment to a patient.
Blockchain technology is distributable, and integrating it into Electronic health records will remove the communication barrier. Therefore, a patient’s data can be gathered throughout their lifetime, and surgeons can access these records when handling the patients in the future.
As stated earlier, several industries can adopt blockchain technology in the future. For the health care industry, blockchain provides opportunities to revolutionize electronic health records, supply chains, and data management.
It can also assimilate blocks of medical data that can be used for research and create transparent, immutable, and secure EHCs that can be controlled by patients and organizations.
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