With the arrival of Coronavirus induced pandemic, the healthcare sector (around the world) is in a fix. Even though some countries are doing better than others with respect to helping the citizens with the best healthcare, the pandemic narrates another story. From patients’ medical history leaks to fraudulent drugs, the healthcare sector is struggling to keep up with the rising need for a better structure. Can blockchain technology help healthcare achieve that?
Blockchain is the technology that enabled Bitcoin transactions which were popularized in 2009. It can be visualized as a digital ledger that is maintained and visible to everyone across the network. With its core function to provide a decentralized collection of records that cannot be changed or compromised, blockchain eliminated the need for a centralized bank that manages all the financial transactions.
The security of data and visibility of timestamps on every block is what makes this technology extremely popular in sectors that rely on transactions of any kind – be it monetary, material goods supply or sensitive information.
From banking and finance to pharma and healthcare, blockchain can be used everywhere. One of the industries that can and are benefiting from this is the healthcare sector. The system places the patient at the centre of the healthcare ecosystem and provides security, privacy, and interoperability of health data. These primary features of blockchain have disrupted the healthcare sector and introduced new operational efficiencies.
How Blockchain can facilitate the Healthcare Industry?
Where there is sensitive data, there will be an attempt to breach it. As with any industry, the healthcare sector has seen its fair share of breaches over the years making it a rising concern to have some measure in place to prevent unethical leaking of medical data. The application of blockchain, however, is not limited to that.
The primary benefit of blockchain is the ease in data portability and data security. While ensuring the safety of patient records by decentralizing it, with blockchain, it becomes very easy to share patient data among healthcare providers safely and ethically. Patients can also be provided ownership of their data, which can be accessed from their mobile devices.
Another aligned benefit is the seamless switching of patients among the healthcare providers. All the new organization or medical personnel would need is a private key authorized by the previous organization and the patient to access it. This helps to reduce the delay that presently arises due to the time taken to access and accumulate a patient’s medical history. With blockchain, these records can be easily retrievable for hospitals, doctors and pharmacists, making diagnoses highly personalized. This even helps to curb miscommunication and mishandling of vital details.
Provision of traceability
One of the other benefits of blockchain is its provision of traceability. The risk of counterfeit drugs and tampered medicines are potentially fatal. Research shows that about 30% of vaccines circulated in developing countries are fraudulent. With the introduction of blockchain, every ingredient can be traced, the drug’s trajectory can be tracked both post-delivery and in real-time, and the supply chain is made transparent and unsusceptible to tampering.
Data on the blockchain is authenticated by all the devices on the network, rather than being given credibility by a single authorized entity. This lack of a trusted intermediary makes many stakeholders and market players hesitant about adopting this tech for storing and processing such highly sensitive data. Additionally, this technology is still too young for us to completely understand the multitude of challenges and vulnerabilities that might arise.
Regardless, the potential of this technology is enormous. The implementation has only just begun with the field ripe for uncharted possibilities. For blockchain technology to be widely adopted, the medical fraternity including the policymakers, the major stakeholders and the industry leader would need to work together and concentrate their efforts in a united approach.
Covid-19 has led to an explosion of technology acceleration in the healthcare world and driven adoption at unseen rates. The time is ripe and reports already claim that by 2025 about 55% of the health applications will be based on commercially developed blockchain.
The blockchain is unique in the way it allows privacy of data and transparency of exchange in a reliable and efficient manner. Any player to successfully leverage this technology will see it pay off in the near future.
The author, Nishant Rathi is a serial tech entrepreneur and Founder & Director of NeoSOFT Technologies. He has over two decades of global experience in the IT services industry.