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Does the Healthcare Industry Need Blockchain?

There are plenty of discussions on how blockchain technology can transform the healthcare industry. In fact, the IMT team has collated most of the potential use cases for blockchain in the medical field. However, in order to understand these cases, it’s important to look at the current situation of healthcare. What challenges are health institutions and health professionals facing right now that need solving? If not blockchain, what other solutions are available?

Data Privacy and Security

Health institutions are among the most common targets of cyber criminals. In fact, according to a report on The Guardian on data breaches, the private health sector suffered the most data breaches within a three-month period in 2018. More than half of these breaches were due to human error while the rest were malicious attacks.

While lack of training and decent security protocols are largely to blame for these occurrences, one also has to consider the centralised systems hospitals are based on. Since there exists a central administrator, anyone who has access to that system can potentially corrupt all the data it carries. The threats can be lowered with proper security training and reinforced protocols. But since blockchain technology would eliminate the risks because of its decentralised nature, many are pushing for its adoption in the industry.

Patient Records

While UK residents are generally proud of the country’s universal healthcare system that is the National Health Service (NHS), its lapses cannot be ignored. The NHS, though funded almost exclusively through taxes, divides its healthcare coordination among public and private organisations. Because of this, the tracking of medical records are oftentimes messy since each institution uses different systems. This only contributes to service inefficiency, which is made worse with poor communication and data integrity.

Furthermore, because it is currently struggling with its shortage of doctors and facilities, the NHS links with other countries in order to provide patients with alternative and cost-effective solutions. If the NHS were to switch to a decentralised records system, it would take less time to pull out patient records, regardless of which institution requests. Additionally, such system can give patients access to information on all other treatment options, instead of relying solely on the NHS’s suggestions.

Payments 

Majority of UK enjoys free healthcare provided by NHS, but there are those who opt for private healthcare for a variety of reasons, including reduced waiting times and access to more specialised treatments. Naturally, going the private route comes at a price, which is dependent on your policy and insurance.

Private hospitals then have the same problem as institutions in the US, wherein costs are not revealed upfront. Oftentimes, there is also a lack of transparency as to why the expenses have amounted to such. This can be solved however, with the integration of blockchain. PYMNTS wrote that healthcare providers can benefit from a pre-payments ecosystem. For instance, both patient and providers can agree in advance to smart contracts, so that each side can track the payments as care is rendered. Blockchain also allows for payments to be released as each step in the care process is completed.

It’s a useful feature, as private hospitals and insurers alike tend to offer programmes or incentives to entice patients. SlotSource mentions how some companies in other industries offer no deposit bonuses, which are basically free trial periods for people to try their services. Such freebies are also awarded to customers who are loyal to the establishment. With a decentralised payments tracking system, health institutions can easily keep track of when patients have availed of such programmes without needing to cross-reference.

The Verdict

As it stands, the healthcare industry can look towards other alternatives in terms of addressing its current problems. However, blockchain technology seems to be the better solution overall, as it solves other underlying problems health institutions have. It’s safe to say then that blockchain is not simply a trend that those in healthcare want to be a part of.

For more on blockchain in healthcare visit our Blockchain library.

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