The Positive Effects of Blockchain in the Healthcare Industry
By Reese Jones
We’ve covered how obsolete technology can do more harm than good in our infographic, “6 Ways That Scheduling Spreadsheets Are Costing Your Hospital Money,” which goes to show just how important innovations are – especially in the healthcare industry. And while most of the innovations in healthcare have to do with medical breakthroughs, technological advances are also noteworthy and are indicative of the promising horizon of the healthcare industry.
While there have been countless technological advances in healthcare – many spurred by the Affordable Care Act – one stands above the rest: blockchain technology. While mostly associated with the Bitcoin craze, blockchain has proven to be a monumental, innovative force.
Modern healthcare systems rely on the patient’s medical records to function and to fulfill their purpose. Yet these records can be siloed from hospital to hospital, making it increasingly difficult for healthcare providers to render their services to patients in need. This is where blockchain technology comes in.
The Harvard Business Review’s John Halamka details how blockchain can fix this issue, as it gives hospitals a means of exchanging information in a secure manner, while protecting data from the threat of being lost. That’s because no one institution or organization has control or ownership over the data. Applying blockchain technology to health records also means that they are updated in real-time, ensuring that all stakeholders are kept up to date on a patient’s medical status.
One of the most tedious aspects of healthcare is the processing of insurance claims. Essentially, it’s a lengthy process of verification upon verification. However, through the use of blockchain technology, smart contracts can streamline this entire process.
Thomson Reuters’ Mick Atton highlights how smart contracts can help companies and organizations speed up transactions, as they no longer have to go through a middleman. Smart contracts automate every step of the transaction, instantaneously enforcing both the obligations and penalties that the parties agreed upon. This benefits patients, insurers, and healthcare organizations by saving both time and effort.
A major problem that the healthcare industry continues to combat is the slew of counterfeit medication making its rounds in the market. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration highlights how big of a threat fake medicine is, as it usually victimizes those who are sick and desperate. In fact, roughly 1,000 people fall victim to fake medicine annually.
Blockchain has an answer to this as well. The healthcare industry can use blockchain technology to monitor and manage medications, ensuring that they aren’t changed or altered in any way. If anything is changed, the organization will know right away and will be able to remove the counterfeit medication from circulation, ensuring that it never reaches the general public.
Blockchain has seen incredible applications across many industries, and the health sector is no exception. Blockchain allows both healthcare providers and patients to enjoy greater data security, faster turnaround times, and better quality control.