Can blockchain transform healthcare?

If you have ever availed a healthcare service of any kind, you know that you are not the owner of your personal health data. Your health record is often, if not all the time, generated, accessed, updated, shared, and maintained by a number of healthcare providers and payers including hospitals, doctors, and labs – each a distinct owner of your data.

At the end of the day, we have not only ceded ownership of our personal data but it is stored in disconnected silos that don’t often talk and talk well to each other. This can only mean one thing – patient care is not as good as it should be.

This decentralized management of data creates challenges of security, privacy, and interoperability, for all stakeholders. Distributed payments to the different teams that provide care, including repetitive forms and documentation, are other rusty and inefficient cogs in the wheel of healthcare. No wonder, 14% of all healthcare spending is towards payment administration.

The crux is that both providers and payers are weighed down by the disproportionate amount of back-end maintenance which bites into the actual value-based service delivery.

Blockchain – from privacy to personal ownership

Experts predict that blockchain can relieve many of these pain points and aid the transition into value-based healthcare IT. Blockchain features such as smart contracts have the potential to expedite payments offerings currently provided by healthcare outsourcing companies. One use case is, when a person checks into a facility for treatment, smart contracts can automatically verify, and authorize the respective health plan, thus speeding up claims, and payment processing.

Blockchain’s signature strength lies in its ability to allow control of decentralized information through secure and traceable records. By corralling disparate data silos, and connecting fragments of EHR data across providers, blockchain can facilitate a holistic view of patient data for improved care. This information, when connected with data from other mobile and medical devices, allows greater insights into aspects of both patient care and health systems operations.

The talk of the town is that blockchain signals a shift towards a patient centric system that allows individual ownership of healthcare data. Patients can walk into a clinic and allow physicians access to centralized data that is stored on the cloud. Updates by different parties such as labs, and hospitals can be accurately recorded and stored securely. This turns healthcare delivery, as it is today, on its head.

Blockchain is still not the Holy Grail that can end all suffering, healthcare related, or otherwise. Successfully implementing and scaling blockchain based solutions will require a consensus from all stakeholders.

Meanwhile, there are other decentralized tech solutions coming up in the market. For instance, Deep Mind has announced its blockchain like ledger that can record and manage patient data automatically.  

Healthcare IT is on an evolutionary path and blockchain promises to be a resourceful aide in this journey. Healthcare outsourcing companies can go beyond EHRs by capitalizing on this technological advantage.

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