Blockchain technology has become incredibly flexible over the past couple of years. While it's mainly associated with cryptocurrency, blockchain technology can be so much more and be applied to many different industries, fields, and ideas. One great use of blockchain technology is actually in the healthcare space. How is blockchain used in healthcare?
There are a surprising number of uses for the ledger technology that blockchains offer. And the technology is already being used in some countries around the world, such as Estonia. This country has already converted its entire healthcare billing system to use blockchain technology. Around 95% of its health data and 99% of its prescription information is digitally maintained via blockchain.
Before we talk about the uses of blockchain in healthcare, it's essential to understand what blockchain technology actually is.
Blockchains are essentially distributed systems that record and store transaction data. This description alone is usually used in the context of cryptocurrency. It's the technology behind cryptocurrency that one can adapt for use in healthcare. Since blockchain technology is essentially a shared record of peer-to-peer transactions, it's a decentralized system with no central authority. Every record that is stored gets distributed to every participant in the network. The participants collaborate in a fully trustless manner, with an immutable audit trail.
Immutability implies that blockchain technologies can be a great way to produce tamper-resistant digital records. However, private data cannot be stored in these records as blockchains are publicly accessible. While private blockchain technology does exist, it's currently not mature or secure enough to be used for protected health information (PHI). Despite this, it still has many uses and can be scaled depending on its purpose.
Blockchain technology is incredibly flexible and will have enormous market value in many different sectors. If blockchain technology is still a little confusing, it's worth expanding your knowledge with our services. With several free and premium courses available, Unblocktalent strives to teach everything there is to know about blockchain. Whether it's about the origin, its operations, or even unique applications in various industries, there's a lot to discover about blockchain technology.
Without further ado, here are some of the most promising uses of blockchain for healthcare.
Blockchains are able to create updated health records that authorized users can access with ease. These blockchains can contain updated data on treatments the patient has received while also storing the results of those treatments and the patient's condition. This up-to-date information can be shared across multiple healthcare professionals involved in the care that a patient receives.
This results in a much smoother communication process and ensures no mistakes are made when describing a patient's situation. It also removes the need for repeated questioning that healthcare providers do when a patient is transferred from one professional to another. Since they can access the patient's healthcare records and previous treatments, they don't need to ask any questions and can quickly diagnose them and provide personalized care.
This also makes it extremely easy for patients to switch between providers whenever they want to. Patients can obtain a shareable private key that can be given to new providers, thus giving them complete access to their healthcare records. This makes it much easier for healthcare providers to collaborate and allows patients to change their regular providers more easily.
Lastly, blockchain technologies can be used to create mobile health applications and remote monitoring systems to offer remote healthcare services to patients. These services can be susceptible to security vulnerabilities and cyber-attacks, hence why more work must be done to create secure services that offer more peace of mind to patients that are willing to use these blockchain-focused healthcare services.
Accessing patient data is an incredibly important part of the medical research process. Being able to access a broad spectrum of patient data could drastically speed up clinical research, but it can create security concerns if the data can be used to identify patients. In addition, data is currently kept electronically and can only be updated and accessed by a specific organization or network of organizations. This means that research organizations typically cannot access the data unless it has been prepared for research use, meaning all traces of identifying information have been removed. This can take a long time, there is a lengthy approval process, and there may still be security concerns.
However, blockchains could make that information publicly accessible or easily shareable while still protecting patients. If the topmost layer of information available on the blockchain was not personally identifiable information or protected health information, then it could be accessed by potentially hundreds and thousands of patients. The availability of so much data could greatly promote clinical research and even be used for public health reporting. In some cases, it could even be used to predict adverse events and reduce the chance of widespread epidemics occurring.
Another great use of blockchains in healthcare is being able to identify the source and destination of pharmaceutical supplies. Medical supplies' origin is incredibly important because there is always the possibility of counterfeit pharmaceuticals being used in critical areas. By being able to track the origin point and journey that pharmaceutical supplies have taken before arriving at their final destination, healthcare specialists can have full transparency.
Blockchain technology can even be used to monitor the labor costs of manufacturing pharmaceutical supplies and even the involved carbon emissions. By having more information related to pharmaceutical supplies, healthcare providers can have more peace of mind knowing that the products they are about to use have come from reputable sources and can be trusted.