In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, an urgent need for accessible and rapid healthcare services made itself known. This need could only be fulfilled through the use of modern technology. Medical care services require many things aside from the science itself, and it requires the facilitation of these services from the healthcare institutions to the patient.
To facilitate this, doctors and other healthcare workers need access to information, large amounts of data, improved methods of communication, and medical records that can be accessed from anywhere. An unlikely collaboration has emerged between healthcare services and the swiftly evolving blockchain technology.
Now, you might ask, what do cryptocurrency markets have to do with hospitals and clinics? Well, read on to find out how this unexpected collaboration has improved healthcare outcomes around the world.
What Is Blockchain Technology?
At its very core, Blockchain Technology consists of a decentralized ledger that records transactions carried out across a peer-to-peer network. In the case of cryptocurrencies, every computer or node that participates in recording these transactions keeps a copy of the information on a hard drive.
This information influences cryptocurrency prices because each successive transaction bears on the value of a given currency. This further implies that the information held in the ledger is freely available for anyone who wishes to access it, provided they have the correct authorization.
But cryptocurrencies are not the only use for Blockchain Technology. Consider the recent growth in the popularity of NFTs or Non-Fungible Tokens. NFTs use the same technology as cryptocurrencies, except their application is slightly modified. To create an NFT, a file, usually a piece of art, is run through a given blockchain’s encryption software.
This software studies the image and assigns it a 64-digit alpha-numerical key that identifies the file as unique. This alpha-numerical code is then used in a transaction along with the blockchain, registering it as an NFT, an irreplaceable piece as unique as the Mona Lisa. As you can guess, these specialized functions that Blockchain Technology can carry out have uses that go far beyond just operations around cryptocurrency value.
Blockchain in Healthcare: Key Applications
Secure Patient Data
A patient’s medical data is sensitive information; on the one hand, it needs to be available to a large number of medical personnel for the patient to receive the best care possible, and on the other, a public record of this data would be a breach of the Hippocratic Oath.
However, using Blockchain Technology, medical data would create an electronically stored, decentralized, and encrypted bastion of information accessible only to those with the correct authorization to view the data. Medical healthcare professionals would be able to access the data, which would get updated in real-time. They would not have to worry about attempts to tamper with the data because every change would have been recorded by the Blockchain, thus ensuring that their patient data will remain safe and secure.
Supply Chain Transparency
The rising healthcare cost may be partly attributed to its fragmented supply chain. Streamlining the supply chain could potentially decrease the cost of medical care. It could also increase the efficiency with which drugs and other medical apparatuses reach healthcare facilities and patients.
Now, if the supply of medical equipment and drugs were to be recorded on a Blockchain, every single transaction would be recorded, allowing for greater transparency along the entire process. Physicians and other medical professionals would be able to verify the origins of the drugs, the vendor the drugs were bought from, and authenticate the supplier’s credentials, in one fell swoop. It would further ensure that genuine drugs will be supplied to the patients who need them most. In fact, this process is already underway.
As cryptocurrencies are gaining more mainstream acceptance, larger and larger financial institutions have started considering them as a payment method. Medical institutions are no different. With the rise of remote healthcare services in a world marred by COVID-19, online payments are taking up more space in the economy.
There are many advantages to paying for healthcare with cryptocurrencies; the transactions are encrypted and secure. They bypass the small print, which gives some credit card companies access to your medical records. Paying with cryptocurrencies would also ignore overheads while paying for a doctor’s visit because the bank fees associated with credit cards would be non-existent.
Advancement of Genomics
The cutting edge in medical science is in the field of genomics, or the collection of genomic data from individual humans to provide personalized medical care to each person alive today. This, of course, implies a vast repository of data about individuals that could potentially affect their children’s lives as well. Needless to say, this sort of information would be incredibly delicate. Any mistakes or tampering could have fatal results.
So, where better to store such information than on a Blockchain, which will be encrypted and accessible only with the correct keys. Any changes to the data would be logged by the software, ensuring that no mismanagement can take place. At the moment, several Blockchain technologies are being developed just to store information related to genomics.
Cryptocurrencies may have popularized blockchain technology, but its uses outstrip simple economic applications. In fact, Blockchain technology could be deployed to improve various facets of our lives, and healthcare is just one of them. By organizing patient records and medical supply chains on a Blockchain, healthcare institutions, physicians, and healthcare officials can now provide better, quicker medical care to the patients in need.
Cryptocurrency payments can lower medical costs and streamline payments. Blockchains can also be used to store information that can provide individual patients with personalized treatment. Blockchain technology is proving to be a truly disruptive force in modern times as society must realign itself to function within its bounds for a better future for us all.