Healthcare is a vital part of our society, and it is constantly evolving to meet the needs of patients and healthcare professionals. In recent years, there has been a lot of hype around blockchain technology and its potential to revolutionize healthcare. But is this just a hype, or really blockchain for healthcare can make a difference?
Considering how big players like IBM, Microsoft, and Google are investing in blockchain research for healthcare, it is evident that there must be something to this technology, and it seems that it is not just hype.
Estonian government’s e-health foundation partnered with Guardtime to store all health records on a secure, decentralized platform. This allows for better patient care, as doctors can easily access medical records from anywhere.
As reported by PR Newswire, the global blockchain in healthcare market size is expected to reach $7308.32 million by 2028, with an increased CAGR of 76.30% from 2021 to 2028.
In this blog post, we’ll look at how blockchain development solutions can revolutionize the healthcare sector. We’ll also discuss blockchain use cases in healthcare, and some challenges that need to be overcome before blockchain technology in the healthcare sector can be widely adopted. So without further ado, let’s get started!
What is blockchain in healthcare?
The healthcare industry is complex, with many different stakeholders involved in the patient care. These include doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, and even government agencies. Blockchain technology could streamline communication between all of these parties, making it easier to exchange information critical to patient care.
For example, blockchain for healthcare is used to create a secure, decentralized platform for storing medical records. This gives patients full control over their health data and makes it easier for medical professionals to access blockchain medical records from anywhere.
Also, in the past, there have been several incidents of sensitive medical data being hacked or stolen.
As reported by GlobeNewswire, over 50.4 million patient records were breached in 2021. The WHO estimates that 30% of medicines in parts of Latin America, Africa, and Asia can be counterfeit.
However, these high numbers call for various actions to help the healthcare industry to overcome these problems and find solutions that will put an end to them. This is where blockchain technology in healthcare comes into play, as it can help reduce the risks of data fraud, increase transparency and create more efficient healthcare systems.
Ways blockchain is transforming the healthcare industry
There are several benefits that blockchain technology brings to the healthcare industry, including data security, data monitoring, and more. In this section, we will discuss some of the crucial benefits and ways that this technology could be used to improve the industry:
1. Improved data security
Blockchain is a distributed database that allows for secure, transparent, and tamper-proof healthcare data management. Blockchain technology can help solve some of the industry’s most common challenges when applied to healthcare, from data breaches to interoperability issues to fraud.
With the implementation of blockchain in healthcare, patient data is stored in a decentralized network rather than on a central server. This makes it much more difficult for hackers to access or tamper with medical data. In addition, blockchain allows different health care providers to share data with each other while maintaining patients’ privacy.
This is because blockchain data is encrypted and can only be accessed with authorized permission. Finally, blockchain can help to reduce fraud and corruption in the healthcare industry by providing an audit trail of all transactions.
2. 24/7 data monitoring
Continuous data monitoring is a must-have criterion in the healthcare sector when it comes to the management and optimization of electronic health records. A large number of human lives are at stake every day, and even a slight margin of error can have devastating consequences.
Starting from the patient’s blood pressure readings to the doctor’s prescriptions, every bit of data related to a patient’s health needs to be monitored and accessed 24/7. However, the existing healthcare infrastructure is often unable to provide this level of data availability due to various reasons such as interoperability issues, data breaches, and so on.
This is where blockchain comes in. This technology can provide 24/7 data availability and help improve electronic health records management with its distributed nature. In addition, blockchain can help to solve interoperability issues by providing a standardized platform for data-sharing between different health care providers.
3. Improved clinical trials
As per a report, the global clinical trials market size was valued at USD 38.7 billion in 2021 and is forecasted to grow to 52.0 billion by 2026, with a CAGR of 6.1%. Various factors like the rising number of clinical trials, growing demand for outsourcing R&D, and drug commercialization are driving this market’s growth.
However, the clinical trial process is often lengthy and complicated, with numerous stakeholders involved. This can lead to inefficiencies and delays, which can impact the success of clinical trials. In addition, clinical trial data is often siloed, making it difficult to share information.
Blockchain in healthcare has the potential to help solve these problems by providing a secure and transparent way to store and manage clinical trial data. With blockchain, each step of the clinical trial process would be recorded on the blockchain, making it easy to track data and identify errors. In addition, blockchain could be used to verify the identity of patients and doctors, ensuring that only authorized individuals have access to clinical trial data.
4. Improved drug safety
Adverse drug reactions are a major problem in the healthcare industry. They are responsible for thousands of hospitalizations and deaths each year. In addition, the cost of treating adverse drug reactions is estimated to be billions of dollars annually.
A blockchain technology database can be used to track the provenance of drugs throughout the supply chain. This would allow for the early detection of counterfeit or adulterated drugs. Blockchain is also used to track patient outcomes, allowing for the early detection of adverse reactions.
Improved drug safety is just one way that blockchain could potentially transform the healthcare industry.
5. Smart contracts
Smart contracts in blockchain can potentially streamline several different processes within the healthcare industry. For example, they could be used to automatically process insurance claims, verify eligibility for benefits, and schedule appointments.
Moreover, smart contracts could be used to manage patient data and records, ensuring that only authorized individuals have access to confidential information.
6. Claims and billing management
Claims and billing management is the part of the process where filing and processing of the medical claim related to the patient’s diagnosis, medications, and treatments are done. There have been several incidents where the medical files were compromised, which led to fraud and theft cases.
Blockchain makes it easy to eliminate these instances as the technology works around recording medical data and storing it in the open digital ledger in such a way that if any change is made in the information, it is visible to everyone who is a part of the blockchain.
Apart from the above-discussed benefits of blockchain in healthcare, there are several other advantages of using blockchain, like reducing medical errors, enhancing public health, and much more.
Now that we know how blockchain is transforming the healthcare sector, let us look into some scenarios validating the blockchain use cases in healthcare.
Blockchain healthcare use cases
While some of the blockchain use cases in healthcare are being implemented by blockchain healthcare startups, some are being piloted by large organizations to secure their business. Let us look into some real-world applications of blockchain in the healthcare industry.
Drug traceability is the ability to track a drug product throughout the supply chain from manufacturers to patients. Blockchain technology has the potential to transform drug traceability by providing an immutable record of drug product movements. Currently, most of the drug traceability systems rely on a centralized database that can be tampered with or hacked.
A blockchain-based system would provide a decentralized, tamper-proof record of all drug product movements. This would allow regulators to quickly identify and recall counterfeit products. In addition, blockchain when combined with artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, could be used to provide real-time tracking of drug products. This would allow for a more efficient and effective response to drug shortages or recalls.
In this regard, Walmart, IBM, Merck, and KPMG had collaborated to pilot a blockchain solution to help track pharmaceutical drugs throughout the supply chain. This project aimed to ensure that the drugs are not counterfeit and meet all the quality standards.
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