Blockchain in Healthcare Sector: It’s Not as Difficult as You Think

Blockchain Technology : A Catalyst for Disruption in Finance World
July 22, 2020

Blockchain in Healthcare Sector: It's Not as Difficult as You Think

“The blockchain symbolizes a shift in power from the centers to the edges of the networks.”

By Minal Patel

There is a huge scope of blockchain technology in healthcare sector.  The global market of  blockchain technology in healthcare sector is valued at approximately $34.47 million  and will see a steep rise by 2024 with revenue close to $1415.59 million. Moreover, the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) growth will be around 70.45% between 2018-2024.

Growing businesses demand the need of  bringing revolutionary changes in all the aspects of their businesses as time and technology progress. When it comes to the field of health care, the urgency of growth escalates to higher levels. Quality healthcare services with the latest technology is the need for today. Moreover, the healthcare system landscape is shifting towards a more patient-centric approach which focuses on two elements namely, apt healthcare facilities at all times and affordable treatment.

Keeping processes intact and still providing effective healthcare service is not feasible in many cases. The major issue in providing quality healthcare services is the gap between payers and providers .The dependency of middlemen in the supply chain makes it even worse. Many players in the system do not have a system in in place for smooth process management. Hence, the existing healthcare ecosystem cannot be considered complete.

Many healthcare facilities today are still using outdated systems for keeping records of patient. These systems hold the functionality of keeping local records of the patient data. This can make it difficult for the doctor to diagnose which is time-consuming for the doctor and tedious for the patients too. Due to this, the cost of maintaining a patient-oriented business is increased significantly.

Despite having gadgets like mobile phones and computers at every healthcare facility these days, we are still not able to collect, analyze, secure and exchange data seamlessly. Therefore, the healthcare system today not only needs an advance system rather it also needs a system that is economically efficient, transparent, smooth and easily operable.

Challenges for blockchain technology in healthcare sector :

Blockchain in healthcare seems to have a bunch of benefits and applications. However, to implement a new technology like blockchain in healthcare and that too on a large scale is not that easy.

Data ownership: There’s no process established which let you know who owns the healthcare data and who grants the permission for sharing.

Cost: There’s no clear idea about the total cost for establishment and maintenance of blockchain technology in healthcare. This makes it difficult for any organization to consider this technology without knowing the actual cost of this technology.

Rules & regulations: As of now there are no rules and regulation that guide the usage of blockchain technology in the healthcare industry. Moreover, with privacy regulations such as (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) HIPAA act in place, it’s uncertain as to how the new rules & regulations regarding healthcare blockchain will be incorporated.

Storage capability: If we use the blockchain technology in the healthcare industry then it will consist of all the documents, images, medical records and lab reports in it. Each member will have their own copy. The volume of all these files may exceed the storage capacity of the existing blockchain technology which may cause issue

“Blockchain technology may not be the panacea for healthcare industry challenges, but it holds the potential to save billions of dollars by optimizing current workflows and disinter-mediating some high-cost gatekeepers.”

Application of blockchain technology in healthcare :

Supply chain management: The current healthcare supply chain is both insecure and lengthy. First, the drugs are manufactured at the manufacturing centers which are then transferred to the wholesale distributors. The wholesale distributors then transfer it to the retail companies which finally sell it to the consumers. To add to the woes there is a major threat to the authenticity of the drugs as counterfeit and inferior drugs can enter the cycle with ease. The immutability of blockchain healthcare can solve numerous issues at a time.

Check drug ingredients: Blockchain helps the manufacturers to keep a track of all the ingredients used in a drug. It makes sure that all the ingredients used are as per the medical standards.

Blockchain offers traceability of counterfeit drugs: With the usage of blockchain technology the healthcare and pharmaceutical organizations can get rid of counterfeit drugs. It helps to find the source of counterfeiting and allows the traceability of all such drugs.

Integrity of medical records: Whenever a medical record is produced, it can be stored in the blockchain which will provide its proof as the information stored in blockchain cannot be changed. So, Blockchain can be used to ensure the integrity of all the medical records. This will be a huge plus point as the integrity of a medical record is critical for both legal point of view as well as medical.

Treatment regimen: Blockchain can also prove to be useful for medical research purposes. The researchers via validated access to the patient’s data can effectively study the effect of any specific treatment over a massive fraction of the patient population.

Single patient identification: In healthcare the duplication and mismatch of patient’s record is not that rare. Moreover, with different plan of different EHRs (Electronic Health Records) makes the job difficult as it brings new ways to manipulate the simple data. With blockchain the whole data is hashed to a ledger. You will come across multiple addresses and keys when looking for the addresses; although, all of them will give out a single patient identification.

Patient payments through cryptocurrencies: Through blockchain systems and applications in place, the possibility of eliminating frauds and providing the right solutions has increased. Bill processing automation will remove the third parties from the chain and cut-down the overall administrative costs

Settlement of claims: One of the things that pains the healthcare industry is time consumed for claim settlements . Smart contracts in blockchain defines the terms and conditions of the contract between the payer and the provider. It comes into effect when a claim is submitted. It is followed by the processing of the claim in real-time and at the end payment is transferred to the provider.

Change in business model: Blockchain has the ability to create new business models when integrated with the operations of healthcare. Example of how blockchain changes the stake holder’s business model with blockchain healthcare are-

  • Pharmaceutical companies: With blockchain platform in place it will be feasible for pharmaceutical companies to collect data in real-time that will allow them to present a vast array of medical treatments and products which are specifically tailored for the patients.
  • Pharmacies: Blockchain will make the pharmacies’ job simple as they will have all the data available to them. From these data they can guide the patients as to how they must take the drug.
  • Healthcare professionals: All the healthcare professionals whether the nurses or doctors can easily access the patient’s data related to their situation.

Moreover, with the real-time data collected using wearable it can inform the professionals about the patient’s current stage along with alert in case of any emergency.

Blockchain is comparatively a new technology which is in its nascent stage. In coming years we may observe Blockchain disrupting the healthcare industry and with that there will be boost in the healthcare app development using the blockchain technology.

However, it is true that execution of blockchain in the healthcare might not be a cakewalk as it might face some serious challenges. One thing is for sure that Blockchain will make healthcare sector secure and swift than ever.

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