WHAT IS BLOCKCHAIN?
Blockchain is the technology that enabled the Bitcoin transactions popularised in 2009. It can be visualised as a digital ledger that is maintained and visible to everyone across the network.
With its core function to provide a decentralised collection of records that cannot be changed or compromised, blockchain eliminated the need for a centralised bank that manages all the financial transactions.
The security of data and visibility of timestamps on every block is what makes this technology extremely popular in sectors that rely on transactions of any kind — be it monetary, material goods supply or sensitive information.
Expanding its horizons from the banking and finance industry to pharma and healthcare, blockchain is running high on unleashing its virtues exponentially
With the potential to transform healthcare, it places the patient at the centre of the healthcare ecosystem and provides security, privacy, and interoperability of health data. These primary features of blockchain have disrupted the healthcare sector and introduced new and unmatched operational efficiencies.
HOW BLOCKCHAIN CAN DISRUPT THE HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY
Where there is sensitive data, there will be an attempt to breach it. As with any industry, the healthcare sector has seen its fair share of breaches over the years making it a rising concern to have some measure in place to prevent unethical leaking of medical data. However, the application of Blockchain is not limited to just that.
The primary benefit of blockchain is the ease in data portability and data security. While ensuring the safety of patient records by decentralising it, with blockchain, it becomes very efficient to share patient data among the healthcare providers safely and ethically. Patients can also be provided ownership of their data, which can be accessed from their mobile devices.
Another aligned benefit is the seamless switching of patients among the healthcare providers. All the new organisation or medical personnel would need is a private key authorised by the previous organisation and the patient to access it. This helps to reduce the delay that presently arises due to the time taken to access and accumulate a patient’s previous medical history. With blockchain, these records will be easily retrievable for hospitals, doctors and pharmacists, diagnoses will be made available more swiftly and healthcare plans can be made highly personalised. This even helps to curb miscommunication and mishandling of vital details.
The one benefit that has shot blockchain’s current popularity is its provision of traceability. The risk of counterfeit drugs and tampered medicines are potentially fatal. Research shows that about 30% of Covid vaccines circulated in developing countries are fraudulent. With the introduction of blockchain, every ingredient can be traced, the drug’s trajectory can be tracked both post-delivery and in real-time, and the supply chain is made transparent and unsusceptible to tampering.
Data on the blockchain is authenticated by all the devices on the network, rather than being given credibility by a single authorised entity. This lack of a trusted intermediary makes many stakeholders and market players hesitant about adopting this tech for storing and processing such highly sensitive data. Additionally, this technology is still too young for us to completely understand the multitude of challenges and vulnerabilities that might arise.
Regardless, the potential of this technology is enormous. The implementation has only just begun with the field ripe for uncharted possibilities. For blockchain technology to be widely adopted, the medical fraternity including the policymakers, the major stakeholders and the industry leader would need to work together and concentrate their efforts in a united approach.
Covid-19 has led to an explosion of technology acceleration in the healthcare world and driven adoption at unseen rates. The time is ripe and reports already claim that by 2025 about 55% of the health applications will be based on commercially developed blockchain.
The blockchain is unique in the way it allows privacy of data and transparency of exchange reliably and efficiently. Any player to successfully leverage this technology will see it pay off in the near future.
The writer is the founder & CEO of NeoSOFT Technologies.