Blockchain is the industry buzzword you hear every other minute. How exactly does it help a patient in having better healthcare?

With all the media coverage on cryptocurrency booms and busts, one cannot be faulted for expecting the financial services sector to be the first one to adopt blockchain technology. But, surprisingly, it is the healthcare industry which is leveraging the blockchain at a faster rate than any other industry.

IBM’s new study, Healthcare Rallies for Blockchain, found that 16 percent of the surveyed 200 healthcare professionals aren’t just experimenting, but expect to have a commercial blockchain at scale this year. Another 56 percent will become the first adopters by 2020. That’s just two years from now!

According to a new market research report by BIS, the global blockchain in healthcare market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 63.85% to reach a value of $5.61 billion by 2025 from its current size of $176.8 million in 2018. Evidently, the healthcare industry is clearly betting big on this technology.

Keeping aside the hype, what are the realistic applications of blockchain in healthcare? What would blockchain in healthcare mean to the patient? The answer is, a lot. Here are a few important ways a patient would immensely benefit from blockchain –

  • Blockchain Improves Health Data Management

Imagine how helpful it would be for your doctor to have a full and complete history of your health? All the medicines you have taken, hospitals you have been to, tests you have been through, information related to all the diagnoses by all the doctors you visited – in one place.

Safely stored, accurately captured, efficiently presented and privacy guaranteed. It’s called Long Data, short for ‘Longitudinal Data’.

It’s not just the doctors, but hospitals, pharmaceuticals, insurers, researchers and the entire healthcare ecosystem that would find it very valuable. It will vastly improve the quality and coordination of care, while reducing costs and risks at the same time. Blockchain can do that.

  • Blockchain Improves Patient Health Management

Imagine a patient with a chronic disease being managed by a healthcare coordinator. The care coordinator identifies the method of treatment, medical procedures to be employed and the wellness goals to be achieved, and then builds a time-bound, milestone-defined plan for the patient to follow.

The care provider also creates a ‘smart contract’ that contains terms and conditions; rules and legalities to be followed; payment details and various types and quantity of medical data to be collected that is related to the patient’s health-appraisal plan.

When this smart contract is on a blockchain network, neither the patient nor the provider needs to call or inform the insurance provider to validate the patient’s eligibility. The blockchain enables eligibility to be identified and confirmed in real-time because of the smart contract.

As the data is collected, authenticated and distributed to all the parties concerned, the care provider can access it via blockchain to monitor and improve the patient’s health; the care receiver can be incentivized to pursue beneficial activities and behavioural changes that contribute towards the previously defined wellness goals; and the insurer can accurately audit and decide the payments to be made without any scope for fraud.

  • Blockchain Simplifies Case Management & Improves Trust

By combining disparate bits of medical data generated at various interaction points (physicians, hospitals, labs, pharmacies, etc.), blockchain forms a single, longitudinal lifetime record of medical history of a patient – owned and controlled by the patient.

The patient can choose to add his or her health and wellness data, generated by various social media apps and wearable medical devices and add it to the open ledger as yet another block of the patient’s health record.

Irrespective of who owns the blockchain system or pays for its setup, it is the patient, who authorizes which parts of the data are to be accessed by which party, as identified under the terms and conditions of the smart contract.

This removes the need for any centralized system to track and control access to the health data. The decentralized but vastly secure nature of blockchain lets the patients control their data with practically no chances of data theft, thus making case management very easy.

  • Blockchain Improves the Mobility of the Healthcare

There is constant pressure on the healthcare industry to deliver quality but cost-effective care. With more than half-a-million Americans traveling overseas for medical care, some payer organizations are thinking about leveraging medical tourism to offset high domestic healthcare costs.

 

Should this trend be picked up by other payer organizations, people would be ever more open to the idea of medical tourism. Blockchain technology can help improve interoperability in such cases through standardized and decentralized global health management records.

Regardless of the geographic location, blockchain can facilitate mobility in healthcare across the globe and yet keeps the patient firmly in control of his or her medical data.

  • Blockchain Improves the Trust in Medicine

Today, healthcare is mostly a provider-centric activity. Blockchain can help create a most patient-centric and patient-inclusive system. Even though it is well-known that including patient-reported outcomes into healthcare decision-making is very important, developing and executing statistically-valid patient-reported outcome measures is expensive and time-consuming.

On the other hand, blockchain can pull in all the data captured by home monitoring devices and wearable devices in real-time and present it to the caregivers, who can then include these outcomes in fine-tuning their treatment plan. Pharma companies can use such anonymized patient-reported outcome measures in drug safety and efficacy research in a cost-effective manner.

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