How Blockchain Technology May Change Modern Healthcare
For years now, blockchain technology has been a hot topic in countless industries, going far away from the tech world itself. It is considered to be the most disruptive technology today, but also the one that will dominate the future.
While blockchain has already proposed different solutions for numerous industries, one that might benefit from it the most is healthcare. The importance of the healthcare industry is impossible to overstate, which makes it particularly concerning that it is so badly managed and slow-growing.
While the technology, as well as online threats, continue to advance — the healthcare industry is pretty much the same as it was decades ago. The reason for this is believed to be the lack of innovation, which may be surprising but is also true.
This is why it is important to introduce blockchain technology to this industry, as its very nature allows medical data, such as patients' records, medical research, and similar important documents, to remain immune to hacking attacks, theft, or data manipulation. Furthermore, blockchain is decentralized, with all the data being stored inside cryptographically. It is also transparent, and so all of the data can be accessed by authorized users whenever there is a need to do so.
The innovation and advantages of blockchain
As mentioned, there is a serious lack of innovation in the healthcare industry, and there is nothing more innovative right now than blockchain itself. We have already said that blockchain brings decentralization wherever it goes, but we did not explain why this is important.
Like many other things in modern society, storing data depends hugely on trust. The same is true when it comes to money or other assets that hold value. You need to know that the entity that manages your money, — which is usually either government or a central bank — can be trusted. The same is true for private files and documents, such as medical records. The trouble lies in the event when the trust is lost, or at least in danger of being lost. All of the money and sensitive data is managed in a single place, controlled by a centralized authority which can use it as it likes.
This is what blockchain aims to change with decentralization, as the data is saved on multiple computers that are running the network, each of them having its own copy of the files. If there is any attempt to change the records stored on blockchain, the other copies will not allow it as they recognize that the new information is false.
Another advantage that blockchain brings is interoperability, which can be difficult to achieve with the current technology. If one institution stores all of the patient's files, and the patient decides to move, they must move their files with them. Otherwise, a new institution will have no records of the patient's medical history. This is why interoperability is important, and despite several attempts, there was no proper solution that would lead to sharing files in a practical and secure way.
However, with the introduction of blockchain technology, this would become easy, and the patient would be able to choose who can access their files and what files they can see, while the access would be instant. This would also solve the issues with identifying the patients, as well as problems regarding information blocking, which is already illegal but still present.
And if you're concerned about transparency for which blockchain is well-known — there is a solution to that as well. A transparent blockchain which anyone can access is what is known as a public blockchain. These are chains that everyone is already familiar with, such as the one used by Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other major cryptocurrencies. However, there is also an alternative, called a private blockchain. Private blockchains do not allow just anyone to join the network, and a person or entity needs to gain permission to do so. They also have other advantages, such as being highly secure, fast, and private, which makes them a great solution for the healthcare industry.
Additional blockchain use cases
Blockchain can also help the healthcare industry beyond just safely storing the patient's data and allowing them to control it. Another big and important use case is for medical research. There are numerous research projects that often last for years, and during that time all the collected data needs to be kept safe. It has happened before that the information gets lost, changed and manipulated, or endangered in some other way.
However, if it were to be stored on blockchain, everything would be safe, and yet transparent and immutable. Pharma companies can also benefit from it by keeping track of their supplies and managing supply chains, which is extremely important due to the nature of their products.
Finally, medical institutions would be able to share important information in a quick and safe way, consult on various issues such as unusual new diseases, patients' symptoms, and alike. Not to mention that the insurance fraud would be almost completely eliminated, due to the fact that patients cannot change their medical data in order to trick the insurance companies.
Indeed, blockchain has a huge potential when it comes to revolutionizing the healthcare industry, as well as many others. The switch to the new technology may be difficult, but as we have seen, the benefits of doing so are more than worth it.