Statistics show that by 2020, one in five of the entire healthcare industry will adopt the Blockchain technology. Fields like Logistics have already started to exploit this field, but Healthcare is lagging. There are many aspects to this technology that makes it a promising bet in the future, but also a risk at the current state.
Blockchain: An Overview
In simplified terms, Blockchain is an electronically shared ledger. It has a network of systems, and all these systems share the load of Data Storage. There is no central server or database, and all the information are stored in the linked systems and are shared via the network. This gives rise to a decentralized, shared ledger where data can be saved.
Blockchain also comes with the feature of tracking the access, modification, and deletion of this data. The information regarding the flow of info is logged for any concerned user to access it at any given time. The information and the real world asset associated with it can also be monitored in real time using this feature.
Blockchain in Healthcare Today
Blockchain offers large applications in almost all sectors that require some Data Storage and Monitoring in real time. Starting from Cryptocurrency, it has extended to Logistics, Finance, and lately Health.
The role of Blockchain in Healthcare today is concerned with Data Sharing that involves Patient Records, Treatment History, Drug Supply and so on. The system can be adapted to perform all these functions in a more transparent way than the conventional Electronic Health Records.
Since Blockchain operates on permission-based protocol, patients can also see the records that concern their health. The hospitals and pharmaceuticals can also gain information on Drug Sales, Treatment Methods and Progress. This level of transparency makes the real-time auditing possible and helps to prevent things like the patient getting wrong treatments or prescription, unauthorized sales of prescription drugs and so on.
Interoperability and Data Harmonisation
If implemented Blockchain can help tackle the plethora of interoperability issues prevailing in the healthcare industry. Due to Interoperability issues with ECR, data sharing between hospitals are often compromised which in turn gives rise to many problems making it difficult for a patient to get treatment elsewhere in a lot of cases. Blockchain can get rid of such compatibility issues.
The interoperability of all medical institutions and services is necessary to ensure the continuity and coherence of the treatment that a patient receives during their lifetime. Creating a Blockchain based common interoperability platform can assure this.
Blockchain helps in sharing data at almost real-time speeds. This is not only helpful in sharing patient data but also helps in other aspects of healthcare.
By using real-time monitoring, drug sales across pharmacies can be observed and kept in check. This brings forth a system of constant vigilance and auditing, which can help tackle dilemmas such as the opioid crisis.
Blockchain in Healthcare: The Challenges Ahead
There are many reasons due to which an innovation that is as promising as Blockchain is not being accepted and extensively used. These concerns stem from that fact that Blockchain is a relatively new concept, and its many drawbacks and vulnerabilities are yet to come to light and be addressed.
The main concerns arise from the relative newness and untested nature of blockchain, and the lack of a unified data standards, protocols, and shared infrastructure. Their issues must be addressed before Blockchain can be considered as a viable option for Healthcare.
This is a primary concern for healthcare, not only for blockchain but for any new technology that is proposed into the sector. As a field that directly concerns human health and wellness, the healthcare sector has almost no margin for error.
Despite being secure theoretically, using Blockchain in Healthcare comes with possible risks, which need to be assessed and minimized before implementing it in real time. These include security breaches, corruption of data at entry points and the weak digital infrastructure in the sector that may prove counterproductive to the idea.
Obstacles in Interoperability and Data Harmonisation
Blockchain in the Healthcare sector sounds good on paper, but there are real-world issues that make this transition difficult in the current scenario. Theoretically, Blockchain should make up for the lack of interoperability and bring about Data Harmonisation. However, the infrastructure to build towards this change is lacking.
Many firms who had tried Blockchain has had ‘varying degrees of success’, which also indicates a problem with the integration of this technology. This skewed success rate is due to the differences in workflow and policies, information blocking and lack of technological awareness and resources, along with the interoperability problem.
Another obstacle that prevents the implementation of Blockchain in Healthcare is the lack of infrastructure. The system does not have a well-built network capable of handling the flow. There is also a lack of people with the technical know how.
Blockchain requires a potent network of systems that can keep the network running and also keep up with the rapid flow of information. It is a very volatile system that incorporates live tracking features, which means the state of the information on the network is always in flux.
A possible way to overcome this lack of infrastructure would be to adopt Cloud-based Blockchain networks. This does not put as much stress on the systems as the default system of Blockchain. It is also extremely reliable and convenient, as it does not put the burden of maintenance on the user, and is handled by the professionals who specialize in the sector.
The blockchain is a very disruptive technology that is taking over the business world. Almost all sectors have found the application of this technology in their field. Healthcare also needs a system like this to heal the wounds that hurt it and grow to be better.
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