The Role of Blockchain in Healthcare

Since its introduction, blockchain technology has gained significant attention due to its unique immutability, transparency, and security. These properties have made it an outstanding solution to various problems in a wide range of industries, including supply chains, finance, banking, insurance, social media, energy, and healthcare.

According to a report by Mordor Intelligence, the healthcare blockchain market was valued at $2.12 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow to $3.49 billion by 2025.

In this article, we will be focussing on the ten most important use cases of blockchain in the healthcare industry.

What is Blockchain in Healthcare?

Blockchain in healthcare refers to the use of blockchain technology in the healthcare industry for various purposes. Blockchain technology has proven to be a reliable solution for a wide range of issues in the healthcare industry, including data breaches and counterfeit drugs.

A blockchain-based health information exchange will unlock the true potential of interoperability. Current intermediaries’ friction and expenses could be reduced with blockchain-based systems by eliminating the traditional database functionalities. In the long run, a nationwide blockchain network for electronic medical information might boost efficiency and help patients achieve better health results.

Why does the Healthcare Industry need Blockchain Technology?

According to CNBC, human error has been the third leading cause of death in the United States. 

  • Security of patient health records
  • Lack of transparency in the drug supply chain
  • Lack of interoperability between databases that contain patient health records, and
  • Dispersion of healthcare-related information, such as patients’ medical histories or medical staff credentials

According to the 2020 Breach Barometer report, over 41 million medical records were hacked. World Health Organization reports that, in developing countries, 1 out of every ten medical products is defective.

These are some of the prevalent challenges. The existing condition makes sharing and obtaining health data on time is impossible.

Blockchain technology has the potential to solve these healthcare issues. It will vastly improve and transform the way patients and clinicians handle and use health data.

With the onset of the technology revolution in the healthcare industry, every healthcare organization is trying to implement technologies that would make their operations more straightforward. 

However, since this industry handles sensitive medical data, practitioners must ensure that any technology they use does not compromise patient data security. Here’s where blockchain technology comes into play. The healthcare industry can benefit from blockchain technology in a variety of ways.

Top 10 Use Cases of Blockchain in the Healthcare Sector

There are numerous ways in which blockchain can aid in filling the gaps in today’s healthcare market. We’ve compiled a list of ten widely used blockchain applications in healthcare.

1. Improving Medical Record Access

Patient records management is one of the most popular blockchain applications in healthcare. As health agencies often isolate medical data, it is impossible to determine a patient’s medical history without consulting their previous care provider. This procedure might take a long time and frequently results in blunders caused by human error.

The blockchain directory model provides the capacity to grow and evolve drastically throughout the Blockchain lifetime. Its strategy is highly beneficial for tracking the steady and continual rise of medical records. 

The chain structure of blockchain also aids in support of ever-increasing medical records by maintaining a continuously growing linked list of medical records, with each block containing a timestamp and a link to the preceding block.

2. Preventing Counterfeit Drug

Drugs counterfeiting is a significant issue in the healthcare business. There is a lot of tampering and counterfeiting in the drug supply chain because it isn’t transparent.

As blockchain technology provides system transparency and immutability, it is a good tool for combating drug counterfeiting. It offers total supply chain transparency from beginning to end. The use of blockchain in the pharmaceutical supply chain can benefit providers by allowing them to:

  • Inventory control
  • Minimized counterfeiting issues 
  • Lower the risk of theft

It can also assist organizations such as the Red Cross, USAID, and the Global Fund in tracing the flow of donated medications throughout countries while assuring the pharmaceuticals’ source, validity, and integrity.

3. Tracking Medical Staff Credentials

Blockchain technology helps to track the experience of medical professionals in the same way it helps in monitoring the authenticity of medical goods. Healthcare organizations and medical institutions can log the credentials of their employees, simplifying the process of hiring.

The following are the main advantages of integrating blockchain:

  • It is an opportunity for medical institutions, insurers, and healthcare providers to profit from their existing credentials data on previous and current employees.
  • Transparency and assurance for partners, such as organizations that subcontract locum tenens or emerging virtual health delivery models, tell patients about medical staff experience.

4. Patient-Centric Electronic Health Record

Every country is struggling with the issue of data fragmentation, which means that patients and their healthcare professionals have an incomplete picture of their medical history.

One possible answer to this challenge is to develop a blockchain-based medical record system that integrates with existing electronic medical record software and serves as a single, comprehensive view of a patient’s data.

It’s important to note that blockchain will not store the patient’s actual data. Regardless of the data added to the blockchain, whether it’s a doctor’s note, a prescription, or a test result, it will be converted into a unique hash function (a short string of letters and numbers). Every hash function is unique, and it will be decrypted with the authorization of the data owner.

5. Smart Contracts for Insurance

By removing intermediaries from the payment process, smart contracts can save money. A smart contract is a piece of code (a series of if-then-else statements) stored on a blockchain and automatically executed when certain conditions are satisfied. Smart contracts initiate transaction processing without needing the involvement of a third party.

Smart contracts can vastly enhance the traditional insurance system by removing all superfluous middlemen. Using smart contracts, a patient can securely purchase medical insurance policy details on a blockchain. These details are less vulnerable to hacking than information stored on a traditional database.

It will also be unnecessary to make time-consuming insurance claims. When a patient performs an insurance-covered operation, the smart contract is immediately triggered, and funds are sent from the payer to the hospital.

6. IoT Security for Remote Monitoring

In the digital health industry, one of the biggest trends is remote monitoring, in which all types of sensors measuring patients’ vital signs can provide healthcare practitioners with better visibility into patients’ health, enabling more proactive and preventive care.

However, security is a significant concern in health IoT, both in terms of keeping patient data private and secure and preventing it from being tampered with to generate misleading data. 

Suppose the caregiver of an older person has to notify them of a fall or heart attack. In that case, a connected device must also be highly resilient to DDoS attacks and other threats that could disrupt the service.

7. Reducing Costs

According to a survey by BIS Research, healthcare blockchain could save the sector up to $100 billion per year in expenditures linked to IT, operations, support functions, staff, and health data breaches by 2025.

According to the paper, pharmaceutical businesses will gain from using blockchain to track pharmaceuticals, decreasing the $200 billion in annual counterfeit drug losses.

Blockchain will benefit health insurance firms by lowering IT and operational costs in the insurance process and reducing health insurance fraud. 

By 2025, it is predicted that the usage of healthcare blockchain for health data exchange would account for the most significant market share, with a value of $1.89 billion. Blockchain can help tackle the most common problem in healthcare IT systems, which is interoperability and non-standardization, which has resulted in data silos in the industry.

8. Tracking Clinical Trials

Sample tracking and management are complex and time-consuming. The solution is a powerful combination of technology and human change management. You’ll not only need a technological solution that connects all of the pieces but also need buy-in from various parties with opposing agendas and commercial interests. 

Technology must work to provide the sponsor with real-time data while also making life easier for research staff at the sites and lab professionals at the bioanalytical labs.

Although some solutions have addressed the technological aspect, they have completely ignored the human element. The ideal situation would be to provide the sponsor with the required sample-level data in real-time. 

The digitization of clinical trials and sample management procedures improves reliability, transparency, and efficacy. Through capabilities for digital health data collecting and enhanced insight into data and analytics, new technologies are pushing the shift to digital clinical trials.

Clinical trial digitalization will drive market growth in the coming years, and blockchain technology’s potential in healthcare is limitless.

9. Enhancing Data Security and Management

As data breaches increase year after year, data security has become a severe issue for patients worldwide. Fortunately, today’s blockchain healthcare applications include maintaining data security.

Because of the technology’s high-security features, any information saved on the blockchain becomes nearly impossible to hack or change. Because of the transparency it provides, any changes to the data are immediately visible, and there is no possibility of tampering with the data.

As a result, blockchain technology enables clinicians and patients to transmit critical healthcare information swiftly and securely while also ensuring privacy and transparency through encryptions and complicated security codes.

Blockchain technology also reduces the risks associated with data centralization, making it extremely valuable for effectively and securely managing patient data. Currently, most patient data is stored centrally, putting it at risk of data breaches, theft, and hacking. To address this issue, blockchain technology is an excellent option because it distributes data among multiple nodes, making it impossible to hack or tamper with.

10. Provides Supply Chain Transparency

The critical concern of the healthcare sector is the assurance of the authenticity of medical goods to establish their validity. By using a blockchain-based system, customers can track the items from the manufacturing site to each stage of the supply chain, providing them with complete visibility and transparency.

This is a critical issue for the industry, particularly in developing economies, where counterfeit prescription medications are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths each year. 

Besides the financial markets, supply chain management and transparency are some of the most advanced use cases for blockchain, as seen by IBM and Walmart’s high-profile collaboration to assure food safety in the supply chain. We believe this to be the most critical short-term impact of blockchain on the healthcare business because the technology and ROI have already been proven.

The Takeaway

Many other high-potential blockchain healthcare use cases are in the experimental stage or have been successfully launched to the market. However, before jumping on board, it’s essential to understand your company’s requirements. 

Here are some signs that you may require blockchain:

  • Several parties must interact on the same data.
  • There is a lack of trust between those parties, so mediators must counteract it.
  • A reduction in transaction processing time would benefit all parties financially.

If you want to evaluate the potential benefits of using blockchain technology in your healthcare services, reach out to us, and we’ll conduct an audit to help you discover impediments and possibilities for deploying blockchain-based health services.

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