When it comes to the healthcare industry, we tend to think of our immediate healthcare providers like our doctors, pharmacists, and hospitals. However, the healthcare industry is extremely complex with many key stakeholders, ranging from government organizations to insurance providers, pharmaceutical companies, and end users like yourself.
It’s no secret that the interoperability between healthcare providers and end users are a decade behind. The unclear exchange of information is something that affects the entire healthcare ecosystem.
In this article, we’re going to look at the transformative impact of blockchain technology in the entire healthcare industry. We’re going to firstly understand why it’s so hard to facilitate a clear exchange of information, and see how blockchain technology can solve this problem to help every stakeholder make better-informed decisions.
We’re also going to explore two key blockchain-based technologies including the Universal Patient Record Ledger, a database that contains all the medical records of a patient that is encrypted and private, and a Drug Supply Chain Ledger, a database that effectively tracks drugs through the supply chain.
Everyone has different goals in the healthcare industry
In the healthcare industry, it’s difficult for stakeholders to collaborative effectively because every organization or institution has a different goal, approach, and view on the same issues. The misalignment of goals is a big reason why backend systems in healthcare are fragmented, which results in a disoriented and inefficient service for end users.
For example: even in an ideal world, the government and insurance providers are more concerned about the fair and equal distribution of healthcare, while pharmaceutical companies are interested in conducting effective research to improve the supply of drugs.
Although conflict of interest is inevitable, the healthcare system needs to have effective collaboration and communication channels. Unfortunately, there is a lot of inconsistency with communication channels and data handling, creating bottlenecks in the flow of information which are not only extremely costly, but which also slow down healthcare services.
Top-down effect of implementing blockchain technologies
Implementing a blockchain that connects key stakeholders like government organizations, insurance companies, healthcare associations, hospitals, healthcare practitioners, healthcare providers, and end users will have a significant top-down impact on the entire healthcare industry. Blockchain in healthcare according to BIS research is therefore estimated to grow over $5.61 billion by the end of 2025.
Governments and insurance providers are at the top of the healthcare pyramid, as they essentially dictate the future of the industry through their policies and allocation of funds. With real-time high-level data on the healthcare industry, governments and insurance providers can make better and more informed decisions which will affect other stakeholders in healthcare.
Apart from policies and funding, once a blockchain-based Universal Patient Record Ledger is rolled out, Government health organizations like the CDC, CMS, and even the FDA can access real-time data about the health condition of a nation. These organizations can, therefore, track the spread of a new infectious disease or even grasp a deeper understanding of lifestyle diseases which can help the government provide more effective public health campaigns.
As for insurance companies, they can also leverage a similar system to investigate and prevent insurance fraud, a problem costing the US $68 billion every year.
Moving down in the pyramid, blockchain technology can help inform research institutions and pharmaceutical companies. These companies will gain better access to data without compromising the security and privacy of patients in the system which will aid with research. Conducting research is currently resource intensive, requiring many trained professionals and administrative red tape. Having access to real-time data enables researchers to make an accurate analysis. Furthermore, previous research data can be updated as live data propagates the research, showing changes as time progresses.
There is also a lot of controversy concerning the cost of life-saving drugs. According to Harris Poll, the public has difficulty trusting pharmaceutical companies, with 91 percent of US consumers believing that pharmaceutical and biotech companies put profits over patients. Drug manufacturers can gain the users’ trust by implementing a Drug Blockchain-based Supply Chain to track and display the costs of drugs to help consumers understand the company’s pricing decisions. The use of Drug Blockchain-based Supply Chain will also prevent fraud, especially in a market that trades internationally.
The men and women on the ground like our everyday doctors, nurses, specialists, surgeons, dentists (anyone delivering healthcare services to end users) will also gain significant advantages with blockchain-based systems. With access to a Universal Patient Record ledger, healthcare providers would be able to provide the best care possible for their patients by being able to administer the best treatment without fear of conflicting or unknown conditions.
If the Universal Patient Record Ledger is also coupled with wearable technology, healthcare professionals can implement first response and emergency procedures with less error, lowering fatality rates.
The blockchain-based services will also decrease overhead costs and time as it can significantly reduces paperwork, back-and-forth communications with other service providers and insurance companies. For example, doctors currently have many administrative tasks as part of their service which can be reduced allowing them to spend more quality time with their patient or research.
The compounding benefit for users in the healthcare industry
Users, therefore, receive the overall compounded positive effect from blockchain technologies in the healthcare system. On a nationwide level, the effects begin with better education, more sophisticated health programs and campaigns initiated by the government. On a personal level, users would also be able to move through the healthcare system with different doctors and specialists without the worry of conflicting treatments as their medical history is made available to other service providers.
The improvement in interoperability between every stakeholder, therefore, leads to better treatment and lower costs for the end user. Users can also have greater confidence in the healthcare system that the drugs they take are fraud-free when bought from a blockchain managed network. End users would also be able to take active control over their personal information and have the ability to access their health records. These changes would also lead to a shift from the existing healthcare system into a patient-centric system that places the user first.
Thus, there are compounding positive effects of implementing simple blockchain technologies to the healthcare system. The above benefits are the results of only two achievable blockchain technologies. A Universal Patient Record Ledger, and a Drug Supply Chain Ledger for pharmaceuticals.
These two technologies can affect the whole business of health. And once these concepts are proven, the healthcare industry will surely implement more blockchain-based technologies that will propel the industry forward.