Until now the best known application of Blockchain technology is Bitcoin cryptocurrency and digital payment systems. Its immense success is making people see its applications in various sectors like accounting, advertising, managing smart contracts, financial services and now in healthcare. Especially, the current healthcare system has been often found to be inadequate in managing health records of patient. Currently, patient medical history is found scattered between doctors, medical offices, hospitals, pharmacies, therapists and insurance companies. Sometimes scattered on various devices and sometimes in computers in a workplace separated by different cabinets. That information is often not updated or shared between and within these service providers. This makes it hard for one to access a patient’s relevant and complete electronic information during critical times.
An Alternate: Secure Blockchain system
Blockchain based systems can act as a network of secure ledger i.e. write-once-read-only digital record. Years of patient’s record can be stored over the internet which is easily available on most devices. Patients or any service provider can reach the information anytime from anywhere in the real-time and update the same. Each interaction (store, update, exchange, view or renew information) made by a legit participant is stored with their identities. As a result, providers can be sure that they have the complete historical picture of a patient’s medical history, how it has changed over time and who made these changes. At the same time any kind of human error while revising the data can also be easily traced down and corrected. Again unless validated by all users no record can be deleted or altered. Thus committing any kind of cybercrime or malicious practice becomes extremely hard.
Future of Blockchain in Healthcare
Beyond the hype, let’s see the realistic applications of Blockchain in healthcare:
- Managing patients’ record- lab results, tests, drug allergies, episodes of severe ailment etc for delivering better health care.
- By looking into patients records healthcare organisations and pharmaceutical companies can monitor supply chains. Companies can track the journey of raw materials, compounds or components from the source to company facilities to the consumer or patient.
- Since the data is available in a secure and digital way, the cost and burden related with collection and maintenance of it by traditional ways will be greatly reduced.
- Blockchain based systems may also be used to freely make available data on threatening pathogens, analyze outbreaks or new infections.
- Blockchain based systems can be used for collecting data collected from IoT devices (Internet of Things) or monitoring systems.
- Blockchain can contribute in filing and processing of medical claims related to patient diagnoses and medication based on the treatment done.
- It can also help in medical research by marking collaboration between the researchers and research participants in various innovative fields.
- It can be used to prove the integrity of clinical research results.
- Blockchain can act as a proof of drug authenticity by asking med companies to register their products in private system.
Clearly, Blockchain has a lot of untapped potential in the field of healthcare. However it success will depend on how willing healthcare organizations are in order to create the required technical infrastructure needed for its application.