As experts and innovators continue to find ways in which blockchain technology can improve modern systems, new use cases are constantly emerging. One of several prominent potential applications for blockchain technology pertains to the healthcare industry.
Regardless of the country you’re in, it’s a safe guess to say that the healthcare industry plays an important role in the everyday ecosystem that surrounds you. According to a publication from Deloitte in 2017, healthcare spending is projected to reach $8.7 trillion USD worldwide by 2020.
Despite this expenditure, modern healthcare systems are not without fault. One issue in particular that has proven challenging to overcome is the process of storing medical records electronically.
Examples of healthcare issues in the world today
There are many benefits to storing healthcare records on networks that are accessible by a variety of practitioners. To name a few of these benefits, patients can see new doctors without having to re-explain their medical history, and medical practitioners can readily access vital information in emergency situations.
However, one of the significant obstacles to implementing this system in many parts of the world is the public’s fear of having their information breached. This fear is not unwarranted. A recent example in Singapore illustrates how important it is to use the right kind of technology when implementing a system that stores such personal information.
Earlier in 2018, 1.5 million people in Singapore had their non-medical personal data accessed and copied following a breach that affected the country’s largest network of healthcare facilities. This included information like the national identification numbers and addresses of patients. Further, reports indicated that the outpatient medical data of 160,000 people was compromised as well.
In Australia, the country’s government has recently been pushing for a system called My Health Record, which aims to allow Australian patients and their practitioners to keep track of their important health information in a single place. However, due to numerous concerns about security breaches and fears about which agencies will access the information, many are choosing to opt-out of the system. Additionally, it is receiving significant pushback from data privacy experts.
How blockchain technology can address modern healthcare obstacles
As evidenced by these recent events in Singapore and Australia, one of the biggest obstacles preventing the healthcare industry from modernizing its practices are fears regarding digital security.
In this area, there are many ways in which blockchain technology can help us change our thinking when addressing these issues. Blockchain technology is often employed on a peer-to-peer basis where entities are treated as equal by the network. Often, this system means that there is no central point of failure or authority, as information is distributed across participating devices.
The nature of blockchain technology incentivizes organizations to cooperate, as doing so has several benefits for participants. When organizations collaborate to share information with one another on a blockchain, it can eliminate redundant data storage. Further, these kinds of collaborations can ensure data integrity within the network and make the process more transparent.
One of the most praised facets of blockchain technology is its ability to function as a public ledger. It can be easy to see who adds or accesses information on a blockchain, and it is extremely difficult to falsify information. This is because information can easily be checked through both internal and external systems. Here, there are many practical ways in which experimenting with blockchain technology can help to address many of the hurdles preventing governments and healthcare agencies from improving their services.
Examples of healthcare projects using blockchain technology today
There are several prominent examples of companies and entities leveraging blockchain technology in order to better their service offerings. Today, many of these have to do with healthcare. Moreover, as the industry continues to grow, we may see more projects attempting to address some of the industry’s largest hurdles.
One example of how blockchain technology is being used in the healthcare sector is with a company called Medicalchain. This project’s mission is to leverage blockchain technology in order to securely store medical records. Its offerings aim to provide solutions to modern issues with health record storage. Its platform is designed around storing and sharing patient healthcare records with heightened data security.
In this system, different organizations such as doctors, hospitals, laboratories, pharmacists, and health insurers can seek permission to access patient records when applicable, with transactions being recorded on a blockchain.
Another example of the burgeoning relationship between blockchain technology and the healthcare industry is Patientory. Patientory calls its offerings “global population health management software” which lets users access their own health data. The platform attempts to empower patients and healthcare organizations to safely store and access healthcare information. It secures data using blockchain technology and says its offerings are compliant with HIPAA (the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).
Lastly, perhaps one of the largest examples of blockchain technology being developed for healthcare use is taking place in Estonia.
The Electronic Health Record (e-Health Record) is Estonia’s official system for electronic medical record keeping. According to its official site, 99% of patients have a country-wide digital record. The platform is tied to the electronic ID-card of Estonian residents and securely stores patient health information online. It is currently trialing KSI Blockchain technology, which will be implemented to maintain data integrity and lessen the threat of data breaches.
Ultimately, the ways in which blockchain technology has the ability to improve the healthcare industry and online medical record keeping are numerous. In the future, it is likely that more solutions will be at least heavily inspired by blockchain technology in order to effectively store vital patient information in a secure way.