Blockchain Is On Its Way...
We are living in a digital age where it’s become easier to access your financial credit record than it is to access your own health records. Companies can find out in-depth knowledge of your financial history, yet doctors cannot easily find out simple details about your medical history if you switch clinics or went on holiday...It’s also pretty hard to verify that all medical professionals are in fact licensed and insured.
All that is set to change over the next decade as Blockchain paves the road for a more transparent, ethical and safer way to deal with our health and medical matters.
· Originally built as the tech behind Bitcoin,Blockchain is a highly secure ledger that records and stores digital assets and transactions.
· All transactions are entered into ‘blocks’ and instantly linked to all previous blocks on the ‘chain’, secured by cryptography
· Anything entered onto a Blockchain is immutable (can’t be edited or deleted)
· Blockchains are peer-to-peer, creating a decentralized network without the middle man.
· A Blockchain can either be public or private with permission only access.
Let’s look at just four ways Blockchain could revolutionize the health and medical industry (there are many more).
1. Sharing your personal health information
It is not uncommon for people to switch GP or healthcare provider, but when we do it becomes difficult to share the historical data. Medical data can often be lost in the process of changing provider. Blockchain would securely store and give access to complete, accurate medical records across healthcare organizations where ever you are in the world. Patients who are part of the Blockchain would then be able to approve or deny any sharing or changes to their data, helping to ensure a higher level of privacy and greater control.
This could also include sharing information with your wearables like a heart rate watch with your GP, or with a hospital you need to visit while on holiday for example. Using Blockchain to store and share health data could lead to a significant improvement in treatments and aftercare, whether it’s obtained from medical devices, wearables, or from internal hospital procedures.
2. Reducing waiting times at hospitals
If we go to a new hospital, we often have to waste time queuing and filling out appropriate forms for admission - often repeating information on different documents for various departments to provide information about everything from your current health status, to your insurance details. Since Blockchain can allow sensitive information to be stored and sent securely, entrepreneurs are now using this to create mobile apps that would allow us to fill in digital admission forms and send them to the clinic or hospital ahead of arrival. This would mean less manual paperwork for both health professionals and patients, plus it would streamline the entire process.
Of course, if our health data was also on the Blockchain, then after their pre-arrival forms were sent in, it would be available instantly to doctors before we even reached the hospital. Think how much this could help in so many situations and emergencies!
3. Check the credentials and qualifications of doctors and surgeons
Barely a week goes by when we hear about another botch job by backstreet cosmetic surgeons, or unlicensed physicians carrying on working anyway. This is another key aspect of healthcare Blockchain can help solve by ensuring that only genuine physicians with verified credentials make it into to the healthcare ecosystem. It would also finally give us the ability to check out any doctors or surgeons anywhere in the world, so we could make more informed and trusted decision for any health treatments or cosmetic surgery.
4. Dramatically reduce counterfeit drugs
One of the biggest challenges that affect the pharma supply chain is rampant counterfeit or fake medicines. These fake or compromised drugs are the result of poor manufacturing practices & techniques, ineffective storage, theft of drugs and medicines, and production of low quality or counterfeit products. The estimated value of this counterfeit drug market, ranges from €150 to 200 billion globally! Blockchain is able to track each step that a medicine or drug product takes on its journey from production to the end consumer, as well as store every tiny detail of information about it. This would give pharmacists clear insights into the quality/content of the products they are selling and it would save millions from the effects of counterfeit drugs and medicines.
Why isn’t it happening now?
Blockchain is still a relatively new technology and while it has been used extensively in the financial industry, the health industry is still facing some teething problems. It is currently still too complex to scale up to the size truly needed. There are blockchain-based health businesses up and running, but more development is needed as the current solutions aren’t yet optimised to handle such large volumes of data. Experts agree that the scalability issue is one of the biggest obstacles for this promising new technology in healthcare, but it’s still a priority to incorporate it.
Join me in next month’s edition of Society Marbella where we discuss how Blockchain could completely transparentize charities and donations once and for all.