The healthcare industry is in great need of an innovation. Granted, there has been great advances in therapeutics with new medicines rolled out throughout the year. What has been missing, is a radical shift in how the industry functions. The system still lacks efficiency, accountability and coordination. Doctors still find it difficult to obtain full patient records on time. Insurance claims take ages, what with all the red tape. Data from research and clinical trials are often kept under lock and key. There are many such practices that need to be overhauled.
Experts believe that such a disruptive change is on the horizon for healthcare technology in the form of Blockchain. The Blockchain industry was in the limelight recently for being the technology behind the Bitcoin revolution. Its capability of storing huge data sets and transactions securely in what is called “a public distributed ledger” has caught the attention of healthcare technology innovators. Blockchain in healthcare could help industry leaders, big pharma and the whole medical community bring about the much-needed reform and build the healthcare industry of tomorrow. So, what does it entail for the future of healthcare? Experts have a say.
Deloitte, in one of its reports, quotes “[Blockchain] does offer a promising new distributed framework to amplify and support the integration of healthcare information across a range of uses and stakeholders. It addresses several existing pain points and enables a system that is more efficient, disintermediated, and secure.”
Blockchain is simply a digital record-keeping system, but a much more secure, scalable and tamper-proof one. Unlike the traditional, legacy systems which are largely centralized, records on a Blockchain are decentralized, auditable and easily accessible with public and private keys.
In other words, a blockchain-based records system in healthcare technology is more streamlined and much more effective. This results in much safer and cheaper transfer of data like-
according to a report by NEJM Catalyst.
As new technologies develop, it is important to put them to use in a way beneficial to people. It is understandable that the healthcare and treatments data organization worldwide have proven to be non-uniform and often inefficient.
The healthcare industry, therefore, can largely benefit from having a system of secure, transparent, and readily accessible information, well organized on the Blockchain.
“In the 21st century, there should be no excuse why patients with the same diagnosis sometimes receive dramatically different treatments. Blockchain technology relieves that pain by synchronizing best practices across different hospitals, even across different countries,” points out David Meranashvili, a practicing neurologist, when commenting on a new concept of smart contracts developed by Robomed.
Information/records in Blockchain can be used to simplify the vast variability in medical treatment best practices using technology like this. It becomes easy to integrate Clinical guideline tracking and operational description with the delivery of medical services.
“With our network’s smart contract, a patient does not need to hope they will get a better doctor or try to get a second opinion: the patient can rely on our clinical error reduction system to achieve the best result”, explains Robomed Network’s CEO Phillip Mironovich.
It is quite understandable that, at this rate, Blockchain industry is going to take years before it establishes in healthcare. But experts feel that technology leaders, hospital administrators and policymakers must break the shackles to growth, which is outdated thinking and practices.
They must “stop preserving data silos” and begin to have a holistic approach, think beyond their organization.
“Let’s find smaller problems we can solve as a starting point,” says Joe Guagliardo, chair of the Blockchain Technology Group at law firm Pepper Hamilton. “Smaller projects that don’t have the regulatory hurdles and then take baby steps that don’t require breaking down all the walls.”
Hospitals and healthcare institutions looking to get their hands dirty with Blockchain technology need to be open to conversations with organizations having similar interests. Guagliardo feels that, as blockchain is all about empowering people with data, healthcare organizations will have to embrace this cultural shift.
“The key — and more so than with most new technologies — is not so much standards-setting but making sure that all the major players are working together to look for a solution that would work for everyone involved,” he adds. source
Analysts project that Blockchain has the potential to transform entire sectors of the economy if it could find a sure footing in healthcare or any industry for that matter.
For that to happen, it needs to clear hurdles like technology, regulation, workflow etc.
SearchHealthIT writer Kristen Lee, noted in a podcast, that government intervention could easily spur blockchain in healthcare. She cites the success of the meaningful use program, which instigated healthcare providers into adopting EHRS, as a suitable example. But she was also noted saying, the huge processing power and specialized hardware needed to leverage this technology, will hamper the use of Blockchain in healthcare.
Another potential deal breaker is how CIOs might approach blockchain in healthcare. “Part of the challenge for CIOs as they come up with new and existing technology is to try to find out how it fits into their existing networks and infrastructure and how they ultimately leverage it to enable business outcomes,” feels Nichol, former IT director for the Connecticut State Health Insurance Exchange.
So what kind of an impression has it created till now?
“It is fair to say that the industry (healthcare) is still confused to a degree about the potential for blockchain,” says David Schatsky, managing director with Deloitte. He added that “more than a quarter of surveyed knowledgeable execs say their companies view Blockchain in healthcare as a critical, top-five priority”. Well, that’s a solid start!