Blockchain and the Healthcare Industry

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Healthcare is one of the biggest and more complex industries in the world. Healthcare is, as bad as it sounds, a business and businesses want to make money. No single country in the world has the perfect Healthcare system but let’s have a look in the US who spends considerably more on health care than any other OECD country.

USA’s Fragmented Healthcare System

An article by the Department for Professional Employees in the US perfectly describes the situation. ‘The U.S. health care system is unique among advanced industrialized countries. The U.S. does not have a uniform health system, has no universal health care coverage, and only recently enacted legislation mandating health care coverage for almost everyone. Rather than operating a national health service, a single-payer national health insurance system, or a multi-payer universal health insurance fund, the U.S. health care system can best be described as a hybrid system. In 2014, 48 percent of U.S. health care spending came from private funds, with 28 percent coming from households and 20 percent coming from private businesses. The federal government accounted for 28 percent of spending while state and local governments accounted for 17 percent. Most health care, even if publicly financed, is delivered privately.’ The result is an incredibly ineffective Healthcare system that is extremely expensive.

 

The Data Problem

In almost all sectors efficiency is key to achieve high profit margins but how can you improve efficiency in an industry that is drowning in data? Clinical trials, patient medical records, complex billing, medical research are some of the kinds of data that are either stored offline in hospitals in vast record keeping facilities or stored in databases that access is restricted to very few people that will never make use of them.

Imagine being a European citizen traveling to the US for holidays, a health emergency occurs and you are rushed to the hospital. The administration of the hospital will have to know who you are, where do you come from, do you have a medical insurance. Furthermore doctors need information such as are you on some kind of medication, do you have any other health problems, do you have allergies, have you ever had any surgery, have you ever been administrated any anaesthetics before? These are information that are absolutely vital to know in order to have the best chance of a full recovery or even survival. Wouldn’t be more efficient and convenient if all of these data, be easily accessible from anywhere in the world, in a secure and private way? This is where Blockchain technology can be used to make this a reality.

What is Blockchain?

In short, Blockchain is a continuously growing list of records called blocks (thus the term blockchain), that is inherently resistant to modification of the data. Blockchains are secure by design and are an example of a distributed computing system with high Byzantine fault tolerance. Decentralized consensus has therefore been achieved with a blockchain. This makes blockchains potentially suitable for the recording of events, medical records and other records management activities, such as identity management, transaction processing, documenting provenance, food traceability or voting.

 

How to use Blockchain Technology for Healthcare

A study by IBM found out that 16% of  surveyed healthcare executives in 16 countries are expecting to have a commercial blockchain solution at scale in 2017 and 56% of them expect to have one by 2020.

So far a few companies are attempting to incorporate blockchain technology in Healthcare such as The MediLedger Project, SimplyVital Health and Robomed Network but the most recent and hyped one is MedicalChain.

MedicalChain in their own words ‘uses blockchain technology to securely store health records and maintain a single version of the truth. The different organisations such as doctors, hospitals, laboratories, pharmacists and health insurers can request permission to access a patient’s record to serve their purpose and record transactions on the distributed ledger. Medicalchain provides solutions to today’s health record problems. The platform is built to securely store and share electronic health records. By digitizing health records and empowering users we can leverage countless industry synergies.’ 

With MedicalChain a smart contract is launched to give time-limited access to a patient’s electronic health record. Doctors write notes, add scans and lab results which are all recorded as transactions. The pharmacy dispenses medication and also records the transaction on the blockchain. The patient gives time-limited access to their insurer for verification of treatment and payment settlement. With smart contracts, patients reward doctors to remotely review medical cases and provide advice or second opinion. Patients give access to insurers to their health record to monitor fitness progress and be rewarded with tokens or reduced insurance premium. Patients are also rewarded for giving research institutions time limited access to their health record for medical trial purposes.

MedicalChain is issuing Med Tokens, which patients will use for storing electronic health records on the blockchain, data from wearable fitness devices and transfer value and payments. Also MedicalChain will be a platform that enables developers to build smart applications that analyse all of these data and provide recommendations such as nutrition and fitness routines.

Do you think that all of these will ever be implemented to a degree that makes a real difference in efficiency? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

 

Bogdan Maslea