Blockchain in healthcare

Blockchain in healthcare: Patient benefits and more

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Blockchain technology is a game-changer with the potential to impact not one or two industries, but the complete landscape of how business is done. When 200 healthcare executives were surveyed, 16 percent expect to have a commercial blockchain solution at scale sometime this year. The key players for blockchain adoption will be regulators, industry groups and market makers. Managing and securing data within healthcare and supply chain management are two great examples of principal concepts influencing and being impacted by possible blockchain adoption. Let’s take a brief look at each one:

  • Healthcare: Better data sharing between healthcare providers means a higher probability of accurate diagnoses, more effective treatments, and the overall increased ability of healthcare organizations to deliver cost-effective care. Blockchain technology can allow various stakeholders in the healthcare value-chain to share access to their networks without compromising data security and integrity, by allowing them to track data provenance as well as any changes made.
  • Supply Chain Management: One of the most universally applicable aspects of blockchain technology is that it enables more secure and transparent monitoring of transactions. With blockchain, the transactions can be documented in a permanent decentralized record — reducing time delays, added costs and human errors.

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Innovating traditional models of healthcare

Blockchain has the potential to propel innovation in preventative care and community-based healthcare models. The capacity of a distributed ledger technology for ensuring data integrity while sharing between parties can ensure collaboration between rising trends in healthcare, which are vital to the improvement of health in communities worldwide.

Blockchain can tie together a complex team-based healthcare, finance and payment with the care provided along with it. The inherent properties of cryptographic public and private key access, proof of work and distributed data, creates a new level of integrity for healthcare information. Blockchain technology also makes it easy to track a drug as it moves from the manufacturer to the patient. This improves the traceability of a drug as it moves across the supply chain, and helps prevent drug counterfeiting.

Blockchain provides frictionless connectivity, strengthened by smart contracts and authorization to access all electronic health data. Its transaction layer can enable instantaneous access to a diverse set of standardized, anonymous and non-patient identifiable information. Transparency and automation can also lead to higher efficiency and lower administration costs. It is a phased approach rather than an instant overhaul of systems, and hence is suited to healthcare sector.

Educating the healthcare industry on security

In the current system, security and trust are the most common concerns shared by businesses regarding the information shared between different entities. Information can be entered anywhere along the line of communication and this leads to trust issues, especially in the healthcare industry. There are also concerns where multiple vendors hold different versions of the same patient record that are not validated, resulting in various errors, inconsistency and incompleteness. Add to that reports of security breaches, tampering of personal data and the ever-present hacking threat, it’s not surprising healthcare officials are concerned.

Since blockchains are cryptographically secure and the data present therein can be authenticated using digital signature that are unique to each person, this technology could be the answer to most of these concerns.

Scaling blockchain for healthcare

The healthcare industry is on the verge of disruption in its digital infrastructure. The current system does not fully support the security or interoperability that is inherently necessary. To utilize collected medical data to its maximum potential, data portability and interoperability of records between systems is a must.

With the advent of wearables and numerous new IoT devices that are interconnected with their data flows harnessed, better security is needed and readily accessible to healthcare professionals. All these challenges could be minimized with the help of blockchain technology and its interoperability, integrity and security, and portable user-owned data.

Carrying on the discussion of blockchain

Be sure to read my next blog, where I look further into how healthcare clients and organizations can adopt blockchain technology into their businesses and some of the concerns being raised.

I would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave any comments you have. Find out now how blockchain solutions can be introduced into your industry ecosystem. For more thoughts on blockchain and its industry applications, follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

And, be sure to join the IBM Blockchain community to stay up to date on the latest announcements:

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Business Account Manager - US Public Sector

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