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Blockchain In Healthcare – What To Expect In 2019 And Beyond

Here is a simple test to check if Blockchain is coming for you: Are you a provider or receiver of healthcare? If your answer is yes, brace yourself for the next generation of healthcare.

While not many people are aware of Blockchain technology, its potential, and how it is disrupting industries, Blockchain based platforms have already caused a revolution in the finance industry and the healthcare industry is not far away.

Advisory consulting organization Deloitte reports that 35 percent of healthcare institutions aim to start Blockchain systems in their IT departments by the end of 2018. It is evident that many are excited about how technology unravels new avenues in this field in 2019.

“I think there’s going to be about two or three years of disappointment set in once people find out it’s not the greatest thing since sliced bread. And then they’re going to have to figure out how to build a skilled staff, how to change the mindset and change the current systems to be able to accept this,” says Prashant Nataranjan, Director Solutions at Oracle. The fact that the opinion leaders understand this phase of doubt is also good for the future of healthcare and Blockchain.

How does Blockchain work?

A Blockchain is a decentralized ledger of transactions that several parties have access to. Every transaction is immutable, traceable, and linked to all the previous blocks in the chain.

No new transactions can be added in the chain unless a majority of parties in this interconnected system verify it as true. While every user is a participant in this decentralized system, users only have access to that of others’ information which they have been given permission for. This system allows for much greater security, anonymity, and interconnectedness than any of the conventional systems in use today.

How can it revolutionize healthcare?

It will not be a new advancement until the Healthcare industry starts realizing the great benefits Blockchain technology can unlock for them. One of the biggest problems affecting digital health records today is data breaches that cause massive losses every year. In the US alone, the cost of these data breaches goes up to 6.2 billion dollars annually.

In a world where health records are on Blockchain, these breaches cannot happen as information can only be accessed if the private key of that information is provided by the owner of that information.

Interoperability:

Another area of great potential for Blockchain technology is health record interoperability. Hundreds of thousands of hospitals around the world use nearly as many digital health systems. These records are not synchronized, and the systems simply cannot talk and share among themselves. This results in frequent data loss, repetition of diagnosis and tests, and ultimately higher health care costs for the patients.

Putting healthcare records on Blockchain can enable privacy and sharing of this data simultaneously. When patients are visiting new doctors or hospitals through their private key, they can give access to their comprehensive medical record to the new doctor.

This lets the doctor immediately see past diagnosis, test reports, and prescribed medication. For patients requiring urgent medical assistance, this can save lives. The times cut down by interconnectedness in a giant web of medical records will improve service efficiency and efficacy.

Tracking:

Blockchain can create unique identifiers for medical assets in an institution. Tracking will become easier with Blockchain, improving follow-ups, reducing counterfeiting and ensuring compliance.

Many systems and devices in hospitals are either outdated or not serviced properly. The need for compliance and tracking becomes more important as data breaches take the world by storm. Smart asset management will be possible by Blockchain technology. The technology ensures that every part of the chain, starting from the supplier to the user, is tracked and verified through smart tracking options.

Physicians, nurses and other professionals will just have to log in and view the status of any given asset, with complete surety that the data will remain confidential within the realms of Blockchain technology.

Hard to hack:

The decentralization of data has immense benefits for healthcare professionals. As we enter a new year, we will see a trend of storing data not on one server, but on a network of computers. This factor makes it less important for cyber miscreants.

For example, the attempt of stealing data and holding in ransom is quite impossible, because everyone has a copy of that data. If you are thinking about a member of the network changing the data, you must know that this data can be added on the computer, but not altered. This is a key benefit of Blockchain, which is why 56 percent of healthcare experts think that this technology will become a norm by 2020.

EHR Management:

One of the best features of Blockchain is the ability to start and complete smart contracts. Smart contracts can run data, share data, create agreements and initiate programs. This service can create automated systems of patient health data that can be managed by the patients themselves.

There can be the adoption of cryptographic standards on how the data should be transferred from one format to the other. The person on the receiving end can view this data by entering the private key. This process becomes very smooth with the help of smart contracts.

Many companies have started adopting smart contracts for EHR Management. Healthcare solutions developed by these companies will run on Blockchain technology and smart contracts, managing an authentic profile for the creators and maintaining confidentiality. Data sharing also becomes easy with Blockchain, powering functions that are necessary for PHI handling.

The hurdles:

The benefits of this technology in the healthcare sector are immense, but there are some hurdles as well. The system will still take a couple of years before we see it running in healthcare institutions. Changing the whole technology infrastructure in a busy institution may not be difficult if it is a company or a service-based business, but healthcare institutions face challenges of their own.

Healthcare experts believe that the biggest barriers to the introduction of the new technology include immature technology (56%) and inefficient skills of staff (55%).

Many experts also believe that this technology is still in its infancy, and cannot be trusted to run such a serious system this early. There is a huge lack of understanding between key opinion leaders and those who are willing to propose this technology. The HIPAA and other bodies will slowly adapt, if they do, to the new workings of Blockchain technology in healthcare. Integrating HIPAA policies in this technology means converting the regulations on 1996 into those of the current age. It won’t be an easy fit, considering privacy and protection, but the shift will happen as the regulators figure a way out.

Needless to say, the regulations will further slowdown adoption, so consider it a slow but steady route towards the future of healthcare.

Last word:

While the hurdles pose a roadblock to this groundbreaking technology, the benefits outweigh all the doubts. The wheels are already in motion to set the tone for the next era of improved healthcare technology. Keeping a tab on news and events related to Blockchain technology, healthcare IT can prepare for what lies ahead.

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