How Blockchain is Poised to Transform Healthcare & Life Sciences

As the healthcare industry strives to deliver quality patient care, it is grappling with some serious challenges. While administrative complexities are preventing payers, providers and life sciences companies from focusing all their energies on clinical decision-making, the lack of interoperability threatens to limit the impact of integrated healthcare. Importantly, data will be central to the industry’s endeavor to enhance patient care, strengthen virtual care and drive self-care through Population Health Management (PHM), Average Length of Stay (AVLOS) and other programs. With its distributed, decentralized and secure framework, blockchain can be a sustainable solution to the said issues. 

Blockchain can drive improved efficiencies, cost-effectiveness, responsiveness and transparency by creating a single and easily accessible system for storing and constantly updating health records. It can bring together payers, providers and pharma companies – creating a common platform to share critical data to build an auditable supply chain for the prevention of counterfeit drugs, exchange patient health data for continuous monitoring and improve clinical research. 

Blockchain and its pervasive impact

Blockchain has a vital role to play across the healthcare value chain, reducing costs and improving efficiencies for payers, providers and pharma companies.

  • Cost reduction: Administrative complexity-led wasteful spending in US healthcare amounts to an estimated USD 265.6 Billion. Blockchain-led interoperable systems can support rapid automation, eliminating manual efforts and errors. Take, for instance, BlockMedx, a blockchain-based platform that offers electronic prescription solutions. It sends, receives and tracks prescriptions to eliminate potential errors related to misinterpreting or losing track of handwritten prescriptions. More importantly, BlockMedx leverages prescriptive analytics to predict patient risk behaviors. Such systems can be a cornerstone in insurers’ efforts to reduce adverse event costs through early diagnoses. 
  • Maintenance of large data sets: With blockchain, all authorized parties can log in and access patient records in real-time, without transporting physical documents. The technology’s consensus mechanism ensures that all data is updated, regardless of where the change comes from. Healthcare providers can not only check on the latest treatment and their results but also research and communicate with consultants and experts in a particular field. Data, at any scale, can be shared securely and directly without an intermediary or third party. For example, through the blockchain-powered MediLedger Network, Chronicled brings trading partners and medical institutions together, enabling greater interoperability while upholding the highest level of data integrity and security.
  • Patient identity and consent management: Studies show that 35 percent of denied claims are due to missing patient information or misidentified patient status. Patient misidentification can also lead to medical errors. Blockchain-enabled solutions ensure that provider databases are kept up to date while checking qualifications. Prescrypt provides patients with full ownership of their medical records and enables them to permit and reject provider access to their data. 
  • Supply chain and inventory management: Supply chain management is among the biggest challenges for pharma companies. They continue to face issues around seamless integration with inventory, greater visibility for offerings, compliance, reduction of counterfeit drugs and cold-chain shipping, to name a few. Blockchain technology can help address these issues by integrating supply chains with the Internet of Things (IoT).

Bringing strategic collaboration to the fore

Blockchain presents an excellent opportunity for plan providers, financial services firms, healthcare organizations and tech companies to collaborate and build a healthcare blockchain solution on a shared platform with shared standards and requirements. The healthcare sector can learn critical lessons from blockchains currently in use across financial services and other industries. For instance, R3 CEV, a consortium comprising major financial services companies, technology firms and other financial institutions, leverages blockchain to drive secure financial transactions directly among different parties.

The way forward: From potential to actualization

Creating an interoperable healthcare blockchain poses specific challenges. According to a survey by the Center for Connected Medicine, less than 40 percent of providers in the US said that they have been able to adopt interoperability well enough to share health data with other organizations. Building a suitable business model on one hand and mindset among stakeholders on the other may be more challenging than developing the technology itself. Therefore, key players of the ecosystem need to take a long-term view because a short-sighted approach to blockchain will deny them the benefits of this technology. Leaders will need to start by engendering trust and transparency. Collaboration and tenacity are vital to driving data interoperability across various business systems. Finally, a consensus is key to ensuring that blockchain solutions are seamless as stakeholders across the healthcare sector and patient journey work together to create the right outcomes.

Mark Halford is Corporate VP – Client Services, Life Sciences and Healthcare, WNS.

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