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Implications of blockchain to healthcare

What are some of the implications that need to be considered as part of the use of blockchain in the healthcare sector? Learn more in this article.

In 2016, Deloitte released a report on how blockchain could affect the Healthcare industry and concluded that,

“While it is not a panacea, this new, rapidly evolving field provides fertile ground for experimentation, investment, and proof-of-concept testing”. ​[1]

In 2018, Deloitte followed this with a global survey of just over 1,000 senior executives, and found that 40 per cent of the healthcare executives surveyed considered blockchain to be one of the top 5 priorities for the healthcare industry, and less than 10 per cent indicated that they saw it as being irrelevant to the sector. [2]

Further findings suggested that 63 per cent of executives surveyed estimated that they would spend at least $1 million on blockchain within the following year, with 40 per cent indicating the estimate was over $5 million. The survey also found that 55 per cent of healthcare executives at the time believed that blockchain would disrupt the industry and 84 per cent of total respondents thought it would eventually be mainstreamed… and this was in 2018!

A vital issue for the healthcare system is the ability to secure and appropriately share sensitive patient data. The current system allows for a certain amount of patient data sharing; however, it is often limited to practitioners in the same organisation, and in some cases, even this is not supported.

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Using a blockchain-based system, patients can control their own data and provide access to approved parties as required to support the provision of health care services. In such a model, it is likely that the majority of the patient’s data could be securely stored outside of a blockchain. The data would be provided via a unique identifier based on the data itself, which is then stored in a blockchain. This can be used to ensure the data is authentic before it is accessed, and would be capable of detecting if it has been tampered with, as this would change the unique identifier.  Now that patients have a secure repository for their own health-related data, such as up-to-date patient histories, testing results and past treatments, it can be used in a number of ways to create additional value.

It is often a time-consuming process to obtain access to patient medical records; these records can be spread over several providers while being stored in separate systems that often do not have the capacity to interact. In a blockchain ecosystem, patients will have the opportunity to store critical data inside the chain or provide a verifiable link to data stored securely outside of the chain that they control access to.

This could allow patients, for example, to provide time-limited access to medical service providers, while also allowing this data to be leveraged for the patient’s benefit. Such a system can assist medical service providers in reviewing patient history, informing automated administrative processes, connecting directly to other service providers involved in patient care, streamlining claim processing, and ensuring that up-to-date records are considered.

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For instance, the results of testing undertaken on behalf of the patient would be written to the blockchain where the patient can see it, and then provide access to a medical service provider to interpret and act upon. This stands to allow the creation of a detailed history of testing results, diagnosis, prescriptions and healthcare outcomes that one day will likely span from the first prenatal meeting.

This has significant implications for how the healthcare sector can verify credentials to allow secure and safe data sharing with outside parties, including a range of emerging applications designed to harness patient data to provide them with direct services.

References

1. Deloitte. Blockchain: Opportunities for health care [Internet]. Deloitte United States. 2016. Available from: https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/public-sector/articles/blockchain-opportunities-for-health-care.html

2. Deloitte. Breaking blockchain open: Deloitte’s 2018 global blockchain survey [Internet]. Deloitte United States. 2018. Available from: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/cz/Documents/financial-services/cz-2018-deloitte-global-blockchain-survey.pdf

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