Blockchain began life solely as the public ledger for Bitcoin. Even as cryptocurrencies have stalled in their attempts to grow their audience, more and more industries and professionals find it’s blockchain that’s the game changer they’re most interested in.
It makes sense for industries like fintech to try out blockchain, but the technology is increasingly on the rise in healthcare. Blockchain in healthcare could be worth $5.61 billion by the end of 2025.
The growth of blockchain in the healthcare industry isn’t a surprise. After all, the U.S. spends 16.9% of its GDP on healthcare and both healthcare costs and risks to data security are growing with each passing day, and the issues facing U.S. healthcare are almost crippling both for patients and providers. Early adopters say blockchain can not only help healthcare administrators do their jobs, but do so while also saving organizations vast sums of money. But is it the panacea that some claim?
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Why Blockchain is Such a Good Fit for Healthcare
One of the core problems (among many) facing healthcare in the U.S. is its fragmented nature. Between healthcare organizations, insurance companies, and service providers, there’s a huge amount of data scattered across a vast and complex ecosystem featuring thousands of institutions. Not only is data scattered, but it’s not even standardized, and it constitutes a general nightmare that contributes to the increasing costs of healthcare and prevents teams from using advanced analytics that could save lives and bring costs down.
The issue of data portability and interoperability is an ongoing problem that no one has yet managed to solve. Back in 2009, the U.S. government issued $1.2 billion in grants to encourage healthcare providers to establish and use electronic health records (EHRs). EHRs initiated the process of standardization by forcing healthcare organizations to go digital. However, digitization by no means completed it.
So why blockchain? All three of its core components — the distributed network, digital transactions, and stored ledger — have something to offer the healthcare industry’s biggest administrative problems. The decentralized principles actually improve both accessibility and security in patient information, which can not only overturn the current gate-keeping system rife with politics and corporate warfare but build a system that allows patients to put themselves in charge of managing their care.
Sharing Data Is the Big Trend in Healthcare and Blockchain
Blockchain can’t fix the fractured nature of American healthcare. It can, however, improve data integrity, center interoperability, and reduce costs. According to Dr. John Halamka, the CIO of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, blockchain’s public ledger offers a huge opportunity to reform auditing and consent, which in turn impacts the integrity, interoperability, and cost reduction.
The most basic principle of blockchain is its ability to enable secure and anonymous transactions across networks. The distributed ledger allows organizations to transfer data effectively both internally and externally.
Effectively, a hash written to a blockchain guarantees that a medical record is complete, which makes it easier to share the data among payers, providers, attorneys, and companies. Moreover, it gives control back to the patient. For example, it can provide a map of record storage and consent mechanisms without adding the actual records, which also allows users to set-up identity permission layers and private keys to share their data on a need-only basis.
Blockchain Makes Healthcare More Secure
The problem of interoperability and data sharing is just one of the healthcare industry’s crises. Security is quickly becoming a huge threat as well. One in four data breaches in total occur in the healthcare industry: millions of records are stolen at an average cost of $363 per record. Again, blockchain can help.
According to Regis College, blockchain offers security-by-design privacy measures. For example, all data stored in the blockchain enjoys a high level of encryption and the blockchain is immutable, so no one can edit the data within it without permission, and there’s a full record of what happens to the data and when. Hackers can try to steal it, but they can’t do much with it, which makes ransoms relatively worthless.
As a bonus, the same features that promote data sharing and consent also protect security. The data is stored in shared databases and works on smart contracts, which reduces the likelihood of accidental data exposures. These are critical because while issues like malware are becoming more prevalent, 53% of all healthcare breaches start from inside the facility.
Healthcare Administrators Will Benefit from Blockchain
Healthcare suffers from an inability to share data with the right people and attacks from the wrong ones. It’s a struggle that bogs down administrators and practitioners alike, and blockchain could help. While it’s true that the blockchain is decentralized, that’s a good thing in the healthcare world because it can help solve the core problem of interoperability.
Although uptake is still somewhat slow and it can’t solve all of the problems facing the industry, those working in the field will likely see more rapid adoption of blockchain technology over the next decade. This will especially ring true if there’s a big push towards a more centralized or universal approach to healthcare in the U.S. that will demand standardized data.
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Trends in Blockchain for Healthcare Administrators was originally published in Cryptocurrency Hub on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.