Blockchain in Healthcare

How Blockchain is impacting the Healthcare Industry

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Healthcare spending is on pace to account for almost one-fifth of the US economy by 2025, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services says. In 2016, it accounted for about 18 percent. The high prices charged by health care providers, from physicians to hospitals to pharmaceutical companies, appear to be the culprit. And part of the reason they charge so much is to cover their administrative costs. Billing insurance companies and collecting payments from patients in a complicated health care system uses a lot of resources. Technology — specifically, blockchain — could remove some administrative inefficiencies and stop prices from climbing as quickly as they have over the last several decades.

Administrative inefficiencies don’t just cost money; they can harm patients’ health and cost lives, leading to unnecessary suffering and unnecessary spending. Integrating blockchain into the health care industry could help with those problems, too.

Healthcare Industry Challenges Blockchain Can Help Solve

  • Most hospitals store patient data in legacy systems. Data is difficult to share among providers, creating incomplete and inaccurate pictures of patients’ histories
  • This siloed data can lead to unnecessary treatments, wasted spending, and potentially deadly medical errors
  • Medical records are an attractive target for identity thieves because they contain so much sensitive personal information in centralized databases that can be hacked
  • Counterfeit drugs don’t help patients (at best), harm or kill them (at worst), waste patients’ money, and cost pharmaceutical companies billions annually
  • Clinical trial data is fragmented across different systems, increasing costs and slowing potentially life-saving innovations in treatment
  • Overbilling, combined with fraudulent billing for services never performed, costs insurers and the government millions annually
  • Patients lack easy access to their own medical records and don’t have complete histories of their own healthcare
  • Customers who use genetic testing services don’t retain control over their genetic data
  • Potential medical advances based on sequencing individuals’ genomes are thwarted by cost and privacy concerns
  • Consumers lack control over their health data, which may be sold without their consent
  • Clinical trial data can be fraudulently modified to get procedures, devices, and medications approved that shouldn’t be

How Blockchain May Disrupt the Healthcare Industry

With blockchain, we can:

  • Reduce tampering in drug manufacturing by tracking all steps of the process on a blockchain
  • Store a patient’s medical history on a blockchain, creating a single, complete version of the truth that patients can share with their medical providers and access themselves. Patients will have a complete picture of their own health history and be able to review their records for mistakes
  • Reduce medical errors related to siloed patient records
  • Store all clinical trial results on one accessible, unchangeable ledger to improve research and reduce fraud
  • Save billions per year in breach-related costs by storing patient data securely on a decentralized blockchain instead of on centralized, hackable servers
  • Cut administrative waste so doctors have more time to spend with patients, healthcare spending stops spiraling upward, and funds get redirected toward more productive uses
  • Let customers retain control of their genetic data and choose whom to share it with or sell it to

How It May Impact Consumers

Shifting healthcare to a blockchain could:

  • Let consumers choose to sell their medical records to researchers, getting a monetary incentive while advancing medicine
  • Save lives by helping pharmaceutical companies, wholesalers, and pharmacists trace medications across the supply chain, from manufacturers to consumers, and detect counterfeits
  • Reduce insurance fraud, saving insurers money and slowing the pace of premium increases for consumers
  • Provide better care by increasing coordination and data sharing among providers
  • Reduce errors and inconsistencies in medical records by having a single, complete, blockchain-based medical record for each patient instead of incomplete records stored across numerous provider systems
  • Lead to more accurate diagnoses and more effective treatment thanks to better data sharing
  • Facilitate cost-saving medical tourism by making it easy to quickly and accurately grant access to a patient’s medical data to providers across the globe

How It May Impact Employment

Blockchain in healthcare may:

  • Cause administrative jobs to decline as recordkeeping, insurance claims processing, and patient billing become more efficient
  • Provide a new way for insurers to incentivize healthy behaviors, reducing preventable illness and spending
  • Provide a new way for the industry to incentivize participation in research studies, helping to advance medicine
  • Increase job opportunities and pay for individuals with knowledge of both healthcare and blockchain

Amy Fontinelle

Staff Writer

United States