You might have heard about Bitcoin and Blockchain over the past couple of years, but for the most part it might have been in relation to nefarious activities. As a result, blockchain technology in healthcare may come as a surprise. But it shouldn’t as blockchain can disrupt and enhance healthcare IT.
Blockchain technology is perceived as a force for good these days and it has both the public and private sectors currently trying to harness this technology to enhance their operations.
Further, health IT as a whole can improve thanks to blockchain technology in the following areas:
- Management of different healthcare data
Interest in blockchain has been driven by the fact that it can be utilized to set up patient transactional histories, vaccine registries, blood test information (during clinical trials), along with making electronic health records (EHRs) more interoperable with heightened data integrity.
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What this really means is that patient data can be efficiently shared across various entities without compromising the security of the stored data. But before we go any further, let’s get some basic questions answered and out of the way.
Bitcoin has quite an interesting and mysterious history because it was created by a person or persons going by the name Satoshi Nakamoto. Although there have been many attempts made to identify who is responsible for this disruptive technology, we aren’t any closer to figuring it out.
Without getting overly technical, bitcoin can be defined as a digital cryptocurrency that allows financial transactions to be conducted without using a central bank or a credit card. As a result, you can easily move money around over the internet in an efficient and easy manner.
Further, there isn’t a central authority running bitcoin. It’s run collectively by users of a Bitcoin Client, so any changes to the system will require the approval of the majority before any changes are implemented.
Blockchain is basically an anonymous publicly visible online ledger that records every single bitcoin transaction. If you want to take a look at how it works, you can navigate through the bitcoin blockchain at Blockchain.info.
Blockchain operates on a peer-to-peer network to distribute data. So there isn’t a central server that’s managing and controlling the data. This significantly reduces any malicious activity on the network.
Bitcoin vs. Blockchain?
There’s often confusion between bitcoin and blockchain, but there shouldn’t be. Bitcoin is a digital currency and blockchain is a public online ledger which is used to verify and record transactions.
Without a public online ledger like blockchain, bitcoin wouldn’t be possible. Blockchain has a record of every bitcoin transaction from the beginning of bitcoin.
Further, as a new transaction occurs, it will be authenticated across the network. Once this process is completed, the transaction will be added as a new “block” on the chain of bitcoin transactions.
As a result, when it comes to eHealth and mobile app development, blockchain can be utilized to resolve significant concerns that have been plaguing the industry. Blockchain’s underlying technology can be used to keep patient data secure, confidential, and HIPPA compliant.
Pros and Cons of Blockchain Technology
Like any other new technology, blockchain has its own set of pros and cons that you have to be aware of.
First, let’s take a look at the pros associated with this technology:
High-Quality Data: Blockchain data is high-quality because it is accurate, consistent, complete, timely, and easily available.
Transparency and Immutability: Any changes made to a public ledger can be viewed by all parties. This enhances transparency and all transactions conducted on the platform can’t be deleted.
Disintermediation: There are no third parties or intermediaries, so there won’t be any counter party risk.
Simplified Ecosystem: As all transactions will be evidenced in a single public ledger, it eliminates the complications and clutter that come with multiple ledgers.
User Empowerment: Users are empowered as they’re in control of all the information and transactions conducted on the platform.
Durability and Longevity: As blockchain is a decentralized network, it doesn’t have a central point of failure. As a result, it is able to better withstand malicious attacks.
There are also some cons associated with using blockchain technology:
Nascent Technology: As the technology gets more popular, there can be problems when it comes to speed, verification, and data limits. Resolving these issues in a timely manner will ensure adoption of this technology.
Excessive Energy Consumption: It requires a large amount of computing power to verify and validate each transaction.
Integration Challenges: Blockchain may require the complete replacement of the current system to make the switch to blockchain.
Cultural Adoption: For the healthcare industry to be truly disrupted, there needs to be a cultural change that requires users to buy into the ethos of blockchain.
Three Ways Blockchain Can Disrupt eHealth Solutions Development
1. Blockchain Enables Enhanced Claim Processing
Historically, the verification and processing of insurance claims have been quite an exhaustive and tedious process for both customers and health insurance providers. Further, customers often find it difficult to understand the legal language and this can make it a struggle.
Blockchain technology can boost this function by making claims processing responsive and transparent to all stakeholders. All the hard to comprehend legal language can also be replaced with smart contracts on this platform.
Once the smart contract has been recorded on blockchain, the information about the claim can be updated periodically and monitored easily. Further, the coding framework behind the smart contract can enable objective resolution of queries.
As a result, you can eliminate or diminish the human judgment factor and reduce the number of disputes associated with settlements. The distributed database can also identify and reject multiple duplicate claims by which fraud can be eliminated.
In time, smart contracts can also be paid automatically when predetermined conditions are satisfied.
So you can say that blockchain has the potential to enhance efficiency cost-effectively by driving standardization, innovation, and logic and data-driven transparent decisions.
2. Enhanced Data Encryption Enhances Privacy
Blockchain also enables anonymous population health and clinical studies which can be vital for both healthcare providers and health insurers. As patients get to keep their identities private while providing data, this has the potential to enable larger and accurate sample sizes for trials. Further, you can do this while maintaining HIPAA integrity.
With this technology, you can also provide a service that is patient-centric. While patient privacy is maintained, blockchain can be utilized to collect data and provide patients with direct personalized recommendations.
As blockchain enables end-to-end encryption, patient data will remain anonymous.
3. Blockchain Enables Enhanced Supply Chain Management
As blockchain is a highly transparent public online ledger, it makes it easy to engage in drug delivery and tracking. As a result, there is less room for error as you can easily see what services were received by which patient.
From a healthcare perspective, this can significantly reduce drug adherence issues and medical fraud.
As a result, all stakeholders can benefit from improved data exchange between the hospitals, third-party administrators, insurers, reinsurers, brokers, and customers.
The benefits of adopting blockchain in mobile apps in the healthcare and insurance sectors is paramount, but adoption will probably be a slow process. When it comes to embracing new technology, healthcare providers and insurance providers have been traditionally weary.
They usually practice a wait-and-watch approach which is currently taking place. As a result, it will be interesting to see how the industry evolves over the next few months while others embrace this disruptive technology.