The Blockchain is the leading technology which actually took the world by storm by its revolutionary work in data management and exchange, specifically in the financial sector. Its huge success in different industries has actually made healthcare world come up with questions too. People are explaining it as the ‘answer to inter-operability,’ and the ‘technology that can solve healthcare’s looming problems but if the confusion looms then the Blockchain will take far more time to bring the difference in the healthcare sector.
What is Blockchain?
Blockchain was developed by Satoshi Nakamoto who is an unknown or rather a pseudonymous person (or a group) and was used as the main part of the digital currency, ‘bitcoin.’ It was developed in the year 2008. Keeping aside the technical jargon, Blockchain is merely a spread and a write-once-read-only record of digital events in a sequential order that is explained in a peer-to-peer network.
It basically records, exchanges and transactions in a database that can be spread and shared across authorized users that can even further add to it, when needed. It basically sounds very simple but here’s what makes Blockchain different- these authorized users can nor delete and even they cannot alter any record and no transaction can take place unless approved by all users.
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Working of the Blockchain
The Blockchain is a peer-to-peer distributed ledger technology which comprises three major components:
1. Distributed network:
The decentralized Peer to Peer architecture has nodes which comprise of network participants, where every member stores an indistinguishable copy of the Blockchain and is authorized to authenticate and certify digital transactions for the network.
2. Shared Ledger:
The members of the network maintain the record of the ongoing digital transactions into a shared ledger. They run algorithms and clarify that the proposed transaction, and once a mainstream of members validate the transaction, then they further add it to the shared ledger.
3. Digital Transaction:
Any digital asset or information that could be recorded in a Blockchain could be called as a digital transaction. Each transaction is structured into a ‘block,’ and each block comprises a cryptographic hash to add the transactions in a linear, chronological order.
Also Read: Why Blockchain will accelerate in 2018
Imagining Blockchain in Healthcare
In healthcare, critical information is spread across a number of systems and sometimes, it may not be available when one requires the most. The current healthcare infrastructure has often been regarded as insufficient to handle information exchange and needs certain tweaks. Blockchain has gone beyond the “innovation trigger” and is just at the “crest of inflated expectations” according to most recent Gartner Hype Cycle and could actually change how we outlook healthcare and data together.
Why should Blockchain be incorporated into Healthcare?
According to my concern, one of the biggest things that make the use of Blockchain innovatory in healthcare is deficient of a central administrator. Why? Because a database is still a concrete thing which consists of bits and bytes. If the contents of the database are recorded in the physical memory of a specific system, anyone who has admission to that system could fraudulent the data within.
With coming up of the Blockchain, there will be no requirement for a central administrator- eliminated by clever cryptography. Plus, all the users are in access to all their information and transactions. Since healthcare deals with private patient information and requires quick admission to information, Blockchain can make more efficient, all these medical records and allow their sharing in a secure way. Blockchain, in a single go, offers admission security, scalability, and data privacy.
The concept of Blockchain in healthcare is simply disruptive- but it won’t be an elixir to drown the concern of data management. Rather, it would be an evolutionary journey where Blockchain is brought into use step-by-step.
How will Blockchain be used in Healthcare?
Fewer than 5% CIO's and only 12% of the payer industry executives have Blockchain been shaped out in their roadmaps. That’s why, keeping at the side the hype, we need to recognize the sensible applications of Blockchain in healthcare.
Here are five ways blockchain can provide advantages to the healthcare:
1. Single, Longitudinal Patient Records
Longitudinal patient records- compiling episodes, disease registries, lab results, treatments- can be easily accessed through Blockchain which even includes the inpatient, ambulatory and wearable data- assisting providers in approaching up with better ways of offering care.
2. Master Patient Indices
Often when we deal with healthcare data, records get incompatible or copied. Also, different EHRs have a varied schema for every single field- coming up with numerous ways of entering and manipulating the easiest of data sets. With blockchain, the entire data set is hashed to a ledger, and not just the main key. The user would look for the address- there can be numerous addresses and several keys, but they will all yield to a sole patient recognition.
3. Claims Adjudication
Since blockchain works on a validation which is based on exchange, the claims can be robotically verified where the network concurs upon the way a contract is carried out. Also, as there is no kind of central authority, there would be very less errors or frauds.
4. Supply Chain Management
Blockchain-based contracts can guide healthcare organizations in taking care of supply-demand cycles through its entire lifecycle- how is the contract taking place, whether the contract is victorious, or if there are any setback.
Interoperability, the very assure of Blockchain, can be understood by the use of complicated APIs to make EHR interoperability and data storage a consistent process. With Blockchain network being shared with official providers in a secure and standardized way, that would reduce the cost and burden which is linked with data reconciliation. Other than these, Blockchain can covert revenue cycle management, drug supply management, clinical trials and avoid frauds.
Also Read: Expert Opinions on the Future of Blockchain
Opportunities for Blockchain
1. Data Security and Integrity
Healthcare systems consist of middlemen and bureaucratic procedures. Employing the Blockchain in healthcare systems can offer solutions to relieve the exchange of data in a secure and transparent manner. Current systems are having mistakes specifically in the sense of records which are revocable and exposed to human error or tampering.
According to a report published by Deloitte, there were 112 million technological breaches in health record data in the year 2015. Blockchain technology holds promise in allowing more integrity within the data exchange by hard-coding public healthcare information into encrypted algorithms, offers the real-time sharing of data, and the decrease of discrepancy in standards.
2. Supply Chain
The use of Blockchain in healthcare is further extended to the pharmaceutical supply chain. Pharmaceutical products pass through many varied hands in their journey from production to patients and this flow is not at all safe, giving unfettered, counterfeit drugs to penetrate the supply chain. These substandard drugs put the end-users–the patients at risk for more health issues The Blockchain can be used to take care of the drug development process via the annoyance of smart contracts and real-time records of the relocation of assets that can be explicitly tracked by both authorised parties and patients, making sure that the drugs that are supplied are real.
3. Medical Records
Blockchain technology can give a ledger of patient data, where patients have access to their information and can allow control to sanctioned parties such as doctors or insurance providers. This also offers information to be simply updated and stored in append-only blocks that are time-stamped for safety.
4. Payments and Billing
Blockchain systems can be made in use by removing third-party involvement for billing management, thus altering outlets for management and offering for a direct, trackable flow of information between parties.
Clinical research has seen difficulties with centralized data sharing, participant enrolment and other data storage protocols which surround the research procedures. The procedure is riddled with dissimilar record systems, where the duplicate of information and the official approval of data cannot be simply verified as it is quite complicated.
Using the Blockchain to regulate the research process can ensure that all parties involved have a high degree of control over the data, as well as the access to relevant data records–making vital information accessible in a secure manner. The Blockchain also allows for the use of smart contracts to enable transparent tracking of academic information, privacy preservation for research subjects, and the crediting of clinical trial stakeholders, without running the risk of either party repudiating it.
The Road Ahead
Mainly, Blockchain’s impending for healthcare relies on how willing healthcare organizations are to make the required technical infrastructure. The Blockchain is costly, there are some issues in relation to its incorporation with the present technology, and there definitely is an assumption about its cultural adoption.
But one thing is for quite sure that Blockchain has taken healthcare by squall over the past year, and there are important investments for Blockchain. With such wide-ranging potential, it is no surprise Blockchain seems balanced to one of the vital pillars in the digital world. And maybe someday, it will change the big data landscape.
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