Blockchain technology is widely used and is ideally suited for many use cases in a variety of industries. This technology is perfectly suited for the Healthcare industry in specific areas. These include supply chain, digital records, product provenance, and many others.
Even with the advances which blockchain has created, people tend to view this new technology in one of two ways. Some see it in tandem with Bitcoin. In their opinion, it is the exact same as all the cryptocurrencies and other overhyped technologies that led to scams and fraudulent activities.
It’s not likely that blockchain will turn the healthcare industry on its head, there are several areas in which it can help improve processes. Even though the industry might be half a decade away from realizing its blockchain potential, the technology can help by making things more efficient and experiences more pleasant.
Blockchain in Healthcare
The blockchain is basically linked digital records on a ledger. Each and every transaction must be verified and stored on the network. It is governed by a set of rules which have been previously agreed upon. However, there is no central authority associated with it.
Transactions and information stored on the blockchain cannot be deleted or copied. It is immutable. Therefore, many groups such as patients, physicians, health insurance plans, hospital systems, and several others, have the ability to share the information in a secure system.
Even though the healthcare sector might be behind other industries, it has plenty of potential. Nearly three-quarters of healthcare IT executives believe that blockchain has significant promise for the interoperability of their healthcare systems.
Healthcare providers and insurance companies reach the same conclusion when examining use cases for blockchain in their own areas. Several are viewing the technology as a way to improve their current operations and procedures. That intent is to make the customer experience better in all facets.
Other facilities are discussing the potential for blockchain and how it may impact specific health systems and hospitals. For instance, many believe that blockchain is a technology that can be leveraged to build on, share, and collect data profiles across multiple sites. This could even include virtual sites as they become available.
One challenge stakeholders within the healthcare industry are running into is making a determination on where blockchain should be applied. They prefer to identify areas in which the technology can be a benefit and then apply it, rather than adopt blockchain and then look for an application.
With that in mind, here are a few ways in which blockchain can be useful in the healthcare industry.
This area of improvement is perhaps one of the easiest to identify. Pharmaceutical companies are exploring the ways in which blockchain can track and monitor product as it moves throughout its course. Integrated with blockchain technology, users can also view and manage relevant information.
For instance, a particular product might require storage at a specific temperature. Via the blockchain, sensors within the shipment itself could transmit temperature information to the blockchain and notify the sender or receiver if changes occur.
Blockchain technology can also be useful in helping to safeguard against substandard or counterfeit products. Biopharmaceutical producers could also use it to record and capture interactions with regulators. These could be used to reference at a later time to ensure all regulations are met prior to shipping.
Putting blockchain to use with clinical trials gives companies the ability to share data securely. This could be information such as adverse reactions, patient demographics, or any other pertinent data. Companies will have the ability to share this with regulators and sponsors as needed.
Additionally, blockchain technology can also give organizations the ability to manage and track consent forms across various sites, protocols, and systems. By implementing blockchain, multiple sites can access, collect, share, and build on patient profiles. This also includes virtual sites.
The exciting piece of this use case is the potential behind it. Using blockchain could give patients the capability to grant and control access to their data. That means if a specific researcher wants a piece of information about a patient, the patient themselves control whether or not they share it.
Provider Directory Management
With a blockchain-based hospital, physician directories could use the technology to update their listings quickly. This type of use case gives providers the power to control their information and control it as needed.
For instance, as a provider changes networks or hospitals, that information needs to change. Providers would have the ability to make that change quickly instead of going through complicated and convoluted processes.
Additionally, if a mistake were identified, a correction would be accepted or rejected immediately based on smart contracts. These smart contracts would govern the information on the blockchain and monitor changes as they happen in real-time.
The vast majority of patients have only a tiny portion of their health history. By using blockchain technology, patients could access a lifetime of transactions and information from several health systems, providers, insurance companies, and pharmacies.
This type of information could easily be processed and parsed into information a patient could read and use. It could also be used to create records available to necessary providers in the form of an electronic medical record.
These records would provide detailed information about encounters, diagnoses, procedures, prescriptions, and claims. Information and data can be added over time and access can be restricted to patients and anyone else they designate.
Insurance Coverage and Claims
This use case might be the most prevalent in terms of direct impact on a patient. Fraudulent and accurate claims are an essential part of the healthcare industry. This is especially the case for Medicaid and Medicare where payments must coordinate between banks, the federal government, providers, and the payer.
With blockchain technology, a smart contract would track all of this information and show proof of inaccurate or fraudulent charges. For instance, if a patient logs in or checks into a clinic for a visit, this would be stored on the blockchain ledger for verification by both clinical and financial systems.
This, along with other transactions, could be put together with others from the same location and then uploaded to the blockchain where the health plan could then access the information. An employee with the insurance company could then see the completed transaction. Since the blockchain is immutable, reimbursement could be sent out to the health system as needed.
Reviews of claims will be more efficient since the patient, and encounter data would be readily accessible. The blockchain makes this information easy to verify and ensures that no errors have occurred.
Additionally, health systems and their providers would have the ability to connect with health plans. Therefore, health coverage, demographic, and other relevant patient information can be quickly verified, streamlining the process and making things more efficient.
As you can see, there are plenty of areas in which blockchain technology can improve upon current health systems, methodologies, and processes. While the wisest course of action would be to find an area which has a need, there’s no denying that there are specific use cases in which blockchain can make a positive impact in the healthcare industry.
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