Transparency and immutability are two prime features that are looked up to, be it any sector. Whether it is finance, supply chain, healthcare or any other vertical, the need for an effective and efficient decentralized system has always been felt. However, the continuous look out for an untamperable and transparent platform has come to an end with the launch of the distributed ledger technology.
Blockchain, yes the technology behind the most hyped cryptocurrency Bitcoin, has marked the beginning of another technology revolution on the global front. The platform, though praised as the basis of virtual currencies, has much wider range of applications across all domains. Specifically, the healthcare industry is too much fascinated by the incomparable features of blockchain, which has the potential to address the transparency and security issues of the sector.
Why switch to blockchain?
Having already realized the benefits of the technology in various sectors such as finance and logistics, now its the turn for healthcare, which has plentiful opportunities too. The way in which the patient numbers are increasing, it is becoming more and more difficult for healthcare providers to manage the huge inflow of health data on regular basis. Storing and processing of such huge amount of data is gradually becoming a challenging task.
Blockchain experts claim that it can transform the health care ecosystem by ensuring security, privacy, and interoperability of health records. It has the potential to build a new model for health information exchanges by offering an efficient and secure system for storing, tracking, and sharing of electronic medical records (EMR), patient health information (PHI), medical insurance claims etc.
The decentralized data sharing platform provides a more secure way to manage and protect patient data than any other ordinary encryption method. Moreover, it also allows for compliance with various medical standards set for managing insurance claims, PHI, and EMRs. The use of cryptography in managing such sensitive data makes it tamper proof ensuring compliance with various privacy and security norms as well. In addition to all the benefits, the technology provides a streamlined data management platform that speeds up the overall work process.
Possible challenges of blockchain in healthcare
In spite of the countless features, there are still some challenges that need to be addressed before we can see widespread implementations and adoption of blockchain in healthcare. A few could be:
- Data Storage: The healthcare sectors deals with huge amounts of information such as medical records, patients details, insurance claims, images, and lab reports, etc. All these require significant storage space to accommodate all data. And, in a decentralized system, all the members who are part of a blockchain would have a replicate or copy of the complete information of each patient. This would create a storage issue by exceeding the storage capacity of current chain. This is a challenge that needs to be looked into seriously.
- Expense: The ultimate goal of every business is to have a good gap between expenses and earnings. However, the cost of developing a healthcare blockchain ecosystem is yet to be analysed and compared with that of traditional centralized systems. Organizations resist switching to new technologies if they do not foresee noticeable benefits.
- Data Ownership: The one who own data has control over it too. There is always a scope for them to use it in any way that’s not expected. Issues like having ownership of data and power to grant permission for accessing and sharing of sensitive patient information is a critical aspect. A structured ecosystem is needed before establishing a decentralized platform.
- Compliance with Healthcare Regulations: The HIPAA Act has mandated few concerns such as privacy of health information, security of electronic medical records, and insurance portability. It is yet to be proved how blockchain can ensure compliance the privacy regulations.
Though there is still some uncertainty regarding the widespread adoption of blockchain technology in healthcare, yet many tech giants such as IBM and Apple have already leapfrogged to take the sector to the next level. The coming years will prove if the decentralized technology is a boon for healthcare or not.
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