Healthcare is plagued by inefficiencies and cost overruns but blockchain technology can be the solution, and could result in a better patient experience in the process, according to Solve.Care Founder & CEO, Pradeep Goel.
The value of the global healthcare industry has increased exponentially in the past years, reaching more than 8.45 trillion dollars in 2018. And this rise is going to continue, with the sector looking set to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 8.9% to nearly $11.9 trillion by 2022. Despite its fast growth, it is a fact that the industry suffers greatly from issues of extraneous expenses and inefficiencies — issues which need to be tackled for the sake of the patients it serves and the medical practitioners it employs.
It may take several months for a payment to be processed or for patient information to be transferred between insurance companies and institutions. And all the while the patient has no real idea of why this is happening. And, finally, what you end up with is not only inefficient communication between healthcare service providers but, more seriously still, a loss of trust with patients resulting from a lack of transparency.
However, blockchain technology – the emerging technology that suddenly everyone looks to be considering – has a notable role to play in reducing these inefficiencies and creating a more transparent and trustworthy healthcare sector for everybody. The usage of blockchain can bring about vital change to the healthcare industry by addressing the root issue of a disconnect between the three pillars and breaking down the barriers to alleviate these problems and inefficiencies. To know how this technology stands to have such a positive effect on the sector, it is worth first providing a brief overview of how blockchain works.
The healthcare industry can be categorized into three main pillars of payments/insurance, medical institutions, and clinical. And, like countless other industry sectors, these pillars are constantly being built up with new systems and processes in an effort to improve efficiency for their respective stakeholders. But therein lies the main challenge; these pillars are built up independently in silos as the focus and priorities of each stakeholder are different from one another.
This leads to a disconnect between the pillars and makes administration processes incredibly inefficient. And this is by no means just a recent problem, healthcare systems globally lack efficiency and have been hemorrhaging money for many years. These problems are symptomatic of the current healthcare system at large and attempting to treat them independently by implementing new systems for individual silos does not address the root causes.
Blockchain technology is an infinite and immutable data ledger. The data on a blockchain is replicated onto many unrelated nodes creating a decentralized database that cannot be controlled from any one node. A strict record-keeping technology that provides transparency and auditability by design adds more levels of oversight where issues can be quickly flagged.
Imagine being granted the ability to view the entire healthcare supply chain and isolating the issue without having to parse through numerous unrelated documents. For instance, fraud or counterfeit medicines can be easily detected as you can check the source of the medicine, and easily ensure the shipment amounts, because you have easy access to detailed records at each step of the chain.
However, the true revolution of healthcare happens when the patient is empowered to make better-informed decisions and when they are given more responsibility in their role as the focus of the healthcare system. This can only be successfully completed by giving patients the knowledge or tools to be able to control their healthcare journey. A key factor of the mission to utilize blockchain technology in healthcare is the philosophy of putting the focus on patients back into the center of the healthcare journey. Patients stand to benefit in many ways from gaining stronger ownership over their data on a blockchain technology.
A patient can retain access to their part of the data on a blockchain and have the ability to track or revoke access to their data at any time. Patients will no longer need to entrust the safety of their information to institutions, or any other third party that has to keep track of thousands, if not millions, of people’s data. Not to mention, a consumer is rarely aware of the affiliations or partners they have signed the rights of their personal data to. With blockchain technology, gone will be the days of being contacted by 3rd party vendors of which you have never heard of.
The healthcare industry is changing in landscape of remote access and telehealth services due to growing accessibility to digital solutions. These consultations not only need remote access but a secure way of transferring information from patient to doctor and doctor to patient. This, coupled with the increasing usage of mobile health devices and remote monitoring, presents a chance for blockchain technology.
Once again it boils down to the need for data security and verifiable transactions as it is now the case that medical records and patient information are often spread out between various institutions. It is undeniable that blockchain is accepted as one of the most secure data management systems in existence today, but the key to its success in healthcare will be the unrivaled interoperability it can provide.