Blockchain - New Promising Technology for Health Information Exchange
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Blockchain – New Promising Technology for Health Information Exchange

It is often tough to assimilate the huge amount of new terms that technology, the internet, or social networks give birth to. Depending on our involvement -and/or interest- in these sectors, we pay more or less attention to these new irruptions. A new reality that promises to change forever the way we manage our data.

A brief introduction to the concept

Blockchain Technology is the information encoding system behind the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. To put it another way: it’s your ledger. With this technology, digital data transfer can be done in a completely secure way. Each file is found in thousands of nodes: any change made to this data, in a matter of seconds, is synchronized with the rest of the copies, leaving a trace. To this, we add another plus, one of the most innovative in our times:  this transfer does not require a centralized intermediary to certify the information.

This allows for more efficient and secure medical records keeping without intermediaries in a new information exchange model in the health sector. This is how the impact of blockchain in the health sector sums up the winning white paper of the challenge called by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to address the applications of this technology in IT and healthcare.

Global spending on health grows faster than the world economy. According to the WHO, it represents 10% of the world’s gross domestic product. According to a report by BIS Research, the adoption of blockchain technology could save the healthcare sector $100 trillion in 2025. This is achieved by reducing expenses derived from information security, technology, support, or personnel costs, among others.

What does the blockchain bring to the health sector?

Improving industry interoperability is one of the main benefits of using blockchain-based solutions. However, as the BIS research study reflects, implementing these solutions requires significant investments to standardize the sector and promote interoperability among agents in the sector. Also, remember the importance of regulating the adoption of this technology to figure out how the solutions will be managed and executed. 

To improve the efficiency of the sector, health systems need to be interoperable. Thus the information to be legible and tractable by the different entities that operate in the health systems. 

The blockchain allows connecting the data of the different health centers, units, and hospitals, guaranteeing access to them. Patient information, personal data, and information related to their medical history are anonymized through a cryptographic hash before being transferred to the network and distributed among the different nodes.

The decentralized operation of the blockchain guarantees that the information is recorded and transmitted in real-time between all the members of the network. No central authority or third parties can modify the data. Thus, patient information ceases to be the sole property of a center and/or hospital shared by the network members.

Therefore, the interoperability of the health system is guaranteed while ensuring the immutability, security, and reliability of the information, thanks to the characteristics inherent to the blockchain.

With this technology, the patient becomes the center of an ecosystem. In 2020, 56% of healthcare business administrators intended to adopt blockchain to improve the exchange of medical information. This is what appears in the study Healthcare Rallies for Blockchain. 

The blockchain was initially created to transit cryptocurrencies securely. Still, it has already turned into a system for other purposes since companies want to take advantage of the fact that the technology does not allow data corruption. That removes intermediaries from the processes that may hinder negotiations or bureaucratize processes. With these advantages and still being an incorruptible technology, the blockchain is being seen by specialists as a new option in other business processes, not only in financial transactions but also in digital property negotiation in the industrial and health sector. 

Forbes magazine listed some possibilities for its use and advantages for companies, including managing decentralized private registries and monitoring the origin of products and materials. Precisely the management of private records is the main interest of doctors and hospital managers, who will exchange patient information with complete security and speed through digital means. 

Going a step further, with the blockchain, the B2C relationship – from companies to end customers, from doctors to patients – can be intensified, creating a relationship in which the patient trusts the system and offers their personal and health data, feeding the Big data of the health institution directly. This creates a history that can be recovered in times of illness or even making diagnoses and anticipating treatments in certain groups of patients. 

Blockchain could revolutionize the healthcare industry globally. Experts believe that the importance of blockchain is so great and disruptive that in the next 20 years, it should represent as much as the internet is changing the life of society. In health, blockchain revolutionizes communication between institutions, with data availability about patients on a shared network that can positively impact global health. A patient who begins treatment in another state or country can have all their exams and histories transited in a digitally safe way, without any editing or loss of information. 

Likewise, the exchange of experiences among doctors with studies of global diseases, forms of diagnosis, and treatment can be decentralized, creating big global health data. What are the most common diseases in certain regions of the world, which are the most used drugs, stock control of the work material needed for treatments, among other information that is important to be shared, can transit via blockchain. 

One of the benefits of blockchain is its availability. Its distributed structure allows the system to continue working even when one or more nodes fall, immediately updated when returning to the network. Reliability is another strong point of this system since, as the data cannot be erased or altered, the registered transactions will remain legitimate and complete. Another relevant aspect is its transparency since all transactions are public, allowing everyone to check them, a great benefit when there are worldwide outbreaks of diseases and for monitoring by international agencies. 

Blockchain still has low operating costs compared to centralized computing systems. This model implies sharing of processing and storage resources. In short, as soon as new suppliers enter the market and the technology gains scale, healthcare companies begin to test their functions and discover their benefits daily. If it is exciting, the number of companies, doctors, health posts, and other institutions increases, making the blockchain even more accessible.

 Applications to the health sector

For many experts, the blockchain will change the way we understand business and society. Currently, there are different lines of researches going on, and one of the most promising is that which corresponds to the world of health. Blockchain application in the health sector are

  • Clinical data. With this technology, medical records and medical data can be read and shared with the complete certainty of their integrity.’Data traceability’ is present in each phase of the transaction.
  • Patient. With blockchain, the patient becomes the owner of their health data. You can access them (history, appointments, ailments, treatments) at any time, from any site or device. You can share your health data with whomever you deem appropriate with this self-management. In addition, the software has already been developed that provides you an easy way to track doctor visits, medical bills, personal medical information, insurance, vaccinations, and pharmacy drugs.
  • Greater security. This encryption is a definitive solution to maintain complete privacy in medical records. Blockchain technology is an ally to streamline the exchange of documents between health providers and insurers and an effective tool against hackers.
  • Global health ecosystem: In a few years, we will have a global and participatory healthcare ecosystem if the ambitious test being carried out by the Central European company Iryo succeeds; the main idea behind this technology is to build a suitable platform to keep health records unified. The blockchain-based solution promises to store data securely and allow patients to share their medical history anywhere in the world instead of all kinds of medical data from various providers stored in different formats and scattered everywhere.
  • Pharmaceutical industry. Blockchain bases its structure on different blocks. Translated to the pharmaceutical sector, it would ensure health records, clinical trials, cold chain management, and verification of temperature control (vaccines) or guarantee regulatory compliance. This particular application responds, for example, to the monitoring requirements of the  Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA).
  • Fight against counterfeiting. Due to the consequences of taking counterfeit medicines every year, tens of thousands of people die in the world(WHO data. More information here ). Blockchain is used to improve the traceability of drugs. It also allows stakeholders in the supply chain to interact and alert laboratories if counterfeit drugs are detected easily. Several companies (Blockpharma at the helm) are already developing applications based on blockchain to control the origin of the medication acquired immediately. This system generates intelligent algorithms that make it possible to recognize more and more counterfeit medicines, increasing the application itself and, therefore, the data set.

Author Bio – Yokesh Shankar

Co-Founder of BlockchainX, My vision and time to offer the best products for our clients without apprehensions at economic rates. Making virtual dreams a reality, My interest in Blockchain technology and crypto started when I was an undergrad. It has since then transformed into something much bigger for me. I believe that Blockchain is undoubtedly the future of technology as we know it, and I have been trying to share as much knowledge as I humanly can with people. From analyzing and assessing the clients’ requirements in detail to proffering the best Blockchain and Crypto Consultant

Blockchain – New Promising Technology for Health Information Exchange

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