Blockchain technology has finally arrived and cryptocurrencies are becoming widely recognized and appreciated by the larger public. With this success, we’ve seen the price of ethereum and bitcoin reach new historical heights.
Investors are flocking the market to buy bitcoin with a credit card or any other means at their disposal.
However, many people are still unfamiliar with the technology that made cryptocurrencies possible. Since the release of bitcoin, blockchain technology has progressed by leaps and bounds.
What was initially just a vessel for transferring digital cash over the internet has evolved into a trillion-dollar industry, with applications in a wide range of niches.
In this article, we explore how advancements and applications of blockchain technology can improve healthcare, one of the most essential industries to human survival. First, let’s explore some of the basic properties of the tech, for those unfamiliar with its advantages.
What is blockchain?
We were first introduced to blockchain technology way back in 2009, with the release of the original cryptocurrency, bitcoin. It was originally intended for the exchange of digital cash in a decentralized manner, directly from one user to another.
The distributed ledger of the blockchain records all the transactions on the network and can be accessed by anyone, at any time. This transparency allows for multiple advantages such as:
● Verification of data without the interference of third-parties.
● Data is distributed amongst all participants making it immutable.
● Due to its decentralized nature, there’s no single weak point, which considerably increases the security of the network.
● The perpetual accessibility of the blockchain guarantees data integrity.
Furthermore, with the implementation of smart contracts, blockchains have become even more powerful. Thanks to these self-executing virtual agreements, blockchains can be used to transfer anything of value.
Assets, commodities, documents, contracts, even art can be tokenized and their digital representation put on the blockchain for easy access and transfer of data.
How does blockchain impact the healthcare sector?
Thanks to the aforementioned properties and advantages of blockchain technology, it’s easy to see how it can be applied to a complex sector such as healthcare. Below is just a selection of applications that can lead to an improved healthcare system.
Integration of health services
As a distributed database, blockchain technology allows every participant in the care system to seamlessly access pertinent patient information. This allows for hospitals, personal doctors, specialized facilities, and ambulance workers to access the same, immutable data at any time.
This streamlined interoperability decreases the chance of human error in the health process, effectively saving a lot of money for everyone involved. Equally, it helps to avoid mistakes that could lead to inappropriate treatment or even death.
Hospitals and other health facilities are often the targets of hackers. The reason is simple – they hold patient data such as social security numbers, names, and addresses. They also work with sensitive payment and credit card information which makes them a target of choice for malicious attacks.
As we mentioned previously, the decentralized nature of the blockchain doesn’t offer a single weak point that can be breached. Blockchain databases are distributed and breaching their security with a 51% attack is very expensive and discouraging to hackers.
Interoperability between insurance and payment processing
Thanks to blockchain technology all invoices and payments can be streamlined through a single database. Besides, different blockchains can interoperate and communicate with each other thanks to smart contracts.
Healthcare providers can be transparent about the costs of the treatments they offer, while patients can connect their insurance data to automatically benefit from a streamlined process.
This will enable all actors in the payment process – hospitals, insurance companies, and patients to freely tap into the same, immutable data. This not only increases trust between parties but also reduce transaction and banking fees as well as administrative costs.
Tracking diseases, outbreaks, and vaccinations
2020 has shown us that the world needs a globalized database to track virus outbreaks. The sudden burst in coronavirus cases has exposed the limitations in modern healthcare systems to handle public health emergencies.
The COVID19 pandemic would have been much more manageable if healthcare was using blockchain technology on a global level.
Now that we are in the vaccination phase in the fight against the pandemic, we can use the tech for end-to-end traceability of vaccines. The distribution chain can be monitored from manufacturing to administration, up to the end-user, eliminating bottlenecks and blind spots in the process.
Blockchain has become one of the most disruptive technologies in the past few decades. Thanks to its numerous advantages, it can improve the healthcare sector by providing more transparency, secure patient data, and enhance the interoperability between healthcare industry participants.
All in all, blockchain can help people all around the world by making the entire healthcare process cheaper and more efficient.