From the early days of 2020 when the COVID-19 virus was quickly escalating to the pandemic we all know it to be today, exposing certain fragilities in our collective healthcare infrastructure. Even before the pandemic, the healthcare and life sciences industries faced issues of interoperability, privacy, and supply chain traceability. One more major issue is that proprietary, electronic health record systems—from more than 700 vendors—frequently don't talk to each other.
Naturally, because of this, healthcare leaders started seeking out ways to improve resilience and overall information technology within their buildings. They are grappling with how to manage consent and keep individual data health data secure. Could blockchain be a critical part of the answer? Let's find out.
The fact is that blockchain is already demonstrating its value in healthcare because it enables trust and collaboration and is likely to continue being at the forefront of addressing new challenges. There are three core benefits to implementing blockchain into the healthcare infrastructure's information technology:
1. Assure data integrity across multiple parties
As organizations seek to confirm the health status of their customers and employees, blockchain helps assure data integrity by storing an immutable, single source of truth. Network participants can collaborate with confidence as they exchange information while also controlling data access.
2. Achieve full traceability
As pharmaceutical products move through the supply chain, they can be recorded on the blockchain. This audit trail means an item can be traced back to its origin, or out to the receiving pharmacy or retailer. This helps reduce counterfeiting and manufacturers can locate a recalled product within seconds so they can respond rapidly.
3. Gain new operational efficiencies
From resolving disputes to triggering next steps in supply chain transactions, to moving medical images through review, smart contracts can automate processes for increased speed and efficiency. Smart contracts automatically take action when established conditions are met.
Decentralization helps improve efficiency in healthcare technology.
These three benefits are somewhat painting with broad strokes, though, and perhaps somewhat theoretical: what about real life blockchain implementation? How has it actually benefited real life patients? Thankfully, there is precedent for this; let us travel to the northern European country of Estonia. With a population just over 1.3 million, Estonia's population is similar to Maine's and its landmass is similar to that of Tennessee. In 2012, Estonia turned to blockchain technology to secure data and process transactions Now all of country's healthcare billing is handled on the blockchain, 95% of their healthcare is ledger-based, and 99% of all prescription information is handled digitally.
Now, success in Estonia doesn't guarantee success everywhere, but we do know that implementing blockchain technology will secure patient data, streamline medical records to prevent mistakes, and even help expedite research in genomics. Blocked-backed records would also empower patients to retain full control over their data: choosing when and to whom to grant permission to access their information.
As we've explored, blockchain solutions can ensure honesty and facilitate transparency. Blockchain enables easy, auditable tracking of datasets generated by researchers, bringing added benefits to government agencies tasked with improving health outcomes for patients.