Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are back under the radar. Investors are lining up in droves to buy Bitcoin and fill up their portfolios with cryptos, awaiting a possible price rally in 2021.
But did you know that cryptocurrencies are more than just investment vehicles? The technology on which they are based, the blockchain, can be used in a vast number of ways and could disrupt almost every industry known to man.
In this article, we explore some of blockchain’s main features and how this innovative technology can impact the healthcare industry. You will learn how blockchain solves numerous recurring problems the sector has been facing and bring solutions that could improve the healthcare system as a whole.
What is blockchain?
Blockchain is a technology that was made popular through the release of Bitcoin in 2009. It is a decentralized and distributed public ledger that records cryptocurrency transactions and chains them in blocks.
Its main goal was to offer fast and cheap peer-to-peer financial transactions on the internet. At the same time, blockchain circumvents any third party or governing body such as central banks or payment processors.
Here’s what each of the defining terms of blockchain technology means:
- Decentralized – no central authority can control, modify, or shut down the network.
- Distributed – all the nodes on the blockchain hold the exact same copy of the ledger.
- Public – the ledger database of transactions can be accessed by anyone and anytime.
This allows data on the blockchain to be easily accessible, transparent, and secure. As everyone has access to the same data, at the same time, it becomes extremely difficult to modify the ledger without the proper consensus.
Finally, since the release of smart contracts, blockchain has become much more than just a vessel for financial transactions. These self-executing contracts allow any type of asset to be transferred, automatically and without third party meddling of any kind.
This decentralization has a number of benefits that can be applied to the healthcare industry.
Improving healthcare with blockchain
The distributed blockchain ledger increased transparency and security allow for a wide array of solutions, especially in the healthcare industry. For instance, in 2016, the Estonian government was looking for new and innovative ways to secure the health records for its 1.3 million residents. It turned to Blockchain technology. Today, Estonia is using blockchain for healthcare on a national scale, with almost 100% of patient’s data being kept on the blockchain.
Below are some of the most important blockchain applications used in healthcare today.
Patient data security
The most obvious use of blockchain technology in healthcare is securing patient data. Information is money, and with the numerous personal information held by hospitals or health insurance companies, they quickly become a perfect target of cyberattacks.
There are many cases of healthcare system hacks and attacks in the past years, with the goal to obtain personal or payment information.
The blockchain is a distributed database and doesn’t provide a single point of failure for hackers. Its decentralized nature makes it virtually impossible to attack or modify, as any anomaly will be immediately detected by the thousands of nodes on the network.
Thanks to blockchain, falsified patient records or insurance policies will effectively become history.
Streamlining the vare process
Blockchain allows different entities in the healthcare process to interoperate seamlessly. Thanks to its transparency, personal physicians, hospitals, social security entities, patients, and insurance companies all have access to the same, automatically updated data.
This allows for the caring process to be streamlined and updated on the fly. For example, medical tests can be accessed and updated by all the participants, every step of the process.
This way, the time of bureaucratic file handling can be cut down tremendously, allowing for a faster, more efficient ecosystem.
Pharmaceutical Supply Chain
Counterfeit medications, especially in third world countries are becoming an increasing threat. Fake drugs that have no beneficial effects are increasingly getting in the hands of the end consumer.
This makes them pay for products that have no medical value and can lead to terrible side effects, and even death.
Drugs can be tracked on the blockchain every step of the way, from the producer to distribution, down to the local pharmacy and the patient consuming the drug. This could in turn, completely eliminate fake drug trafficking.
The blockchain is more than just a network for trading Bitcoin. It is a disruptive and innovative technology that could transform the healthcare sector on a global level.
Thanks to increased transparency, accessibility, and security, recurring problems such as tedious bureaucracy and counterfeit medicine could be eliminated altogether.
We should be able to see more and more countries follow Estonia’s blockchain example in the following years. This would inevitably lead to a better, cheaper, and more efficient healthcare industry as a whole.