Earlier this year, Yashoda, a Telangana-based chain of hospitals, decided to buy land on Decentraland. Yashoda may have been India’s first medical institution to set foot in the metaverse, but it was not alone in its interest in blockchain technology. The future of blockchains in healthcare looks bright, but are blockchains the future of healthcare?
What factors determine the future of blockchain technology in healthcare?
Blockchains help address one of the biggest concerns when it comes to healthcare data: safety. Records stored on centralized hospital servers—however secure they may be—can be compromised if the server gets hacked. Thanks to their decentralized nature and encryption, blockchains are a lot safer. The public nature of this record-storing option ensures that all users have visibility of access to the record. And in the meanwhile, your private key keeps your records private.
To sum it up, healthcare data on blockchain offers the best security while enabling maximum confidentiality. You know where the data is and where it is going, but you can’t view any of the details of the data.
And you can, of course, share access with anyone you trust if you wish to.
This rare combination of security and confidentiality ensures that the future of blockchain in healthcare is rather promising. But that’s not all there is to it.
What functions can blockchain technology perform in healthcare?
Imagine going to a hospital for all your tests, procedures, and routine checkups. The records are with the hospital—on their servers—although you have a few recent prescriptions. Now suppose you have to relocate and have to find another hospital. If the new doctor could access your past records, it would make treatment so much simpler and more effective. But what happens if your old hospital refuses to share its records with you? Blockchains in healthcare eliminate that possibility.
The records are uploaded as soon as they are generated. And an encrypted copy of the record is stored on each computer on the network. So simply sharing your private key, a new doctor can view the data from anywhere in the world. Further, blockchains let you authorize them to transparently make additions to the records.
This example demonstrates some of the many functions that blockchain can perform in the healthcare sector. But blockchains can also do a lot more for healthcare. Some examples of the kinds of things it makes possible are listed below:
- Secures records without having to store the information on a centralized database. The tamper-proof and immutable nature of blockchains means more safety.
- Speeds up patient identification, saving valuable time during emergencies. For instance, via blockchain, your Fitbit can send your health data to your encrypted address. Your physician can then use this address to view the information. This helps save a lot of money, too.
- Checks auto-compliance, courtesy of smart contracts. Simply put, blockchain smart contracts can flag off any records that violate the Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act (DISHA).
- Establishes a single point of truth. For instance, a cardiologist from one hospital and a general physician from another can request, access and track your laboratory tests in real time. And whenever a new piece of information gets added to the patient’s record, smart contracts can be deployed to automatically send them to respective doctors.
- Makes the medical supply chain even more transparent. Besides, medicines can reach patients without the involvement of third parties—who may be unscrupulous. The catching of counterfeit medicines also becomes simpler as it’s easier to check the origin with blockchains.
- Helps locate doctors and healthcare services more easily. Hospitals can’t save beds for the rich as everything on the blockchain is public and recorded in real-time.
- Improves the future of genomics by safeguarding billions of data points from a genetic perspective.
- Offers greater transparency in recruiting participants for trials.
- Helps keep track of medical insurance plans and makes claims easier to process.
How do blockchains stand to benefit from the healthcare sector?
The relationship between blockchains and healthcare is a two-way street. Benefits flow both ways. Once blockchains become a mainstream concept in healthcare, we might see increased adoption of the technology. And with more people and organizations migrating to the blockchain, its coverage area will increase. In simple words, blockchains will become more popular and efficient thanks to the healthcare sector.
As reputed firms delve into the metaverse space, new blockchain use cases relevant to the healthcare space are likely to show up. This may lead to new breakthroughs in the use of the technology.
Healthcare providers may also take to tokenizing their services, thus furthering the popularity of blockchains. When the healthcare industry begins to accept crypto payments, it will normalize and boost the adoption of the underlying blockchain technology.
What are the challenges for blockchain adoption in healthcare?
Companies like doc.ai, FarmaTrust, and Blockpharma are already scoping the existing healthcare realm and making it better with blockchain-specific innovations. The benefits are already being felt in bits and pieces when it comes to securing the supply chain, patient data, and more. However, there is still time before blockchain technology becomes substantially disruptive in the healthcare market.
The implementation of blockchain in healthcare still remains a challenge. One cannot delete records of dormant patients, and the costs of maintaining them with legacy hardware are high. Plus, the fact that each blockchain has its own transaction speed poses another challenge.
Yet, as security breaches become increasingly common, blockchain adoption looks more likely than ever. The US country alone saw 692 data breaches in 2022, according to the HIPAA Journal. If the number stays as high as this, the day when people start looking for alternatives may not be too far off.
To learn about other interesting uses of blockchains, click here.