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Why Should Healthcare Invest in Blockchain Technology?

January 04, 2018

Blockchain technology can help healthcare institutions exchange data, build smart contracts, resolve cybersecurity challenges, and reduce costs.

Since 2013, search traffic for the term “blockchain” has risen 1900%, and the blockchain technology market around the world is expected to grow to $2.3 billion by 2021 from $210 million in 2016.

Graph of the projected growth of blockchain technology, from 2016 to 2021

Blockchain technology is expected to increase more than ten times in revenue by 2021.

Blockchain technology makes use of data structure to ease the way we make transactions. It will help different industries, such as healthcare, education, and e-commerce, and keep a permanent record of online exchanges and transactions in a more secure way without help from third-party companies.

Many start-ups, entrepreneurs, investors, organizations, and government bodies have begun to realize the power of blockchain as a revolutionary technology – including the healthcare industry, where blockchain advances the way patients are treated, how their shared information is kept safe, and how patients can interact with their doctors.

Current Use of Blockchain Technology in the Healthcare Sector

In an IBM Institute for Business Value blockchain study, more than 200 healthcare executives—both payers and buyers—in 16 countries were surveyed; 16% of them are experimenting with blockchain and were expected to implement and commercialize blockchain in 2017. About 56% are likely to follow by the end of the decade.

To discuss the presence of blockchain in the healthcare industry, Emily McDaid, a writer at TechWatch, spoke to Andrew Cuthbert, the founder and CEO of Clinisent, a healthcare startup in Ireland. This startup, one of the few to focus on blockchain in health, has raised more than £1.65 million in the last 18 months . Clinisent aims to revolutionize the use of digital tools in healthcare management.

Cuthbert said that people think the healthcare industry is an unlikely candidate for blockchain application. Technology adoption is slower in the healthcare industry because patients, physicians, hospitals, and insurance companies want new technologies to be proven before paying for them.

Clinisent is trying to change that by transforming the secure flow of health information between providers and patients through blockchain. For example, some locations around the world attract "medical tourists," who travel abroad for procedures like hip replacements or plastic surgeries. Clinisent is attempting to make the international transfer of information seamless.

Why the Healthcare Industry Should Invest in Blockchain Technology

The healthcare industry should invest in blockchain technology because blockchain helps simplify the exchange of health data, provides more flexibility with smart contracts, resolves cybersecurity challenges, and reduces costs.

Exchange Health Data With Ease

Exchanging data is one of the most important features of blockchain in healthcare. Healthcare startups can use blockchain-enabled IT systems to deliver technological solutions to many challenges, like health data security and interoperability.

Blockchain technology in the medical field

Blockchain gives health data exchange systems seamless access to real-time patient health data and eliminates the cost and burden of data reconciliation.

For example, Guardtime, a data-centric security company, has recently partnered with Estonian eHealth Foundation to secure the health data of more than one million Estonian citizens using KSI (Keyless Signature Infrastructure), a globally distributed system for delivering timestamped and server-supported signatures.

Build Smart Contracts for More Flexibility

Blockchain makes it possible to develop smart contracts, or small pieces of code stored on the blockchain. Smart contracts allow doctors to exchange information and give more flexibility and freedom in the way health-related decisions are made, whether it is a patient choosing to disclose his or her health records, or a doctor sharing information with other doctors.

Keeping information on the blockchain can transform the entire way healthcare providers, patients, and other industry entities transfer information.

Resolve Cybersecurity Challenges

The healthcare industry is well-known for its strict policies and regulations, which ensure data security and privacy, but the increasing number of cybersecurity threats create new problems for emerging digital workflows.

For example, last year, Johnson & Johnson warned its patients that it learned of a security vulnerability in one of its insulin pumps that a hacker could exploit to overdose diabetic patients with insulin.

Today, various healthcare systems, drug and device manufacturers, and payers are looking for a secure health IT ecosystem so that they can manage healthcare data easily and promote value-based care.

The cost of data breaches for healthcare organizations has increased to approximately $380 per record; however, for other industries, it has decreased by 10%.

Cybersecurity threats are an expensive concern for medical device and technology companies.

Because it is not possible to hack or alter the data saved on the blockchain, this technology can help resolve cybersecurity challenges in this industry.

If the healthcare industry uses blockchain technology, the systems will work on distributed network agreement with built-in cryptography techniques, making all the data and record of digital events immutable and almost impossible to hack.

Using blockchain can enable healthcare technology companies to add more secure and reliable strategy across device identity management, enhancing patients’ privacy along with giving selective access to patients’ health data.

Reduce Cost and Gains Efficiency

Healthcare organizations and firms can use blockchain for record management and bridge traditional data silos, thus increasing efficiency and keeping business and medical data safe. Blockchain will also streamline the entire process for patients to access their medical records and share the data in a more secure way.

With blockchain, the cost of transferring medical records between two institutions will likely decrease, compliance costs will go down, and auditing will become much easier.

Instead of storing data in a single place, blockchain stores data in an encrypted ledger that is distributed across synchronized, replicated databases. Every single block is connected to an earlier block with an exclusive public key, allowing carefully controlled access to data. Because blockchain is highly decentralized, hacking or altering sensitive data is impossible, so the system could reduce Medicare fraud.

Invest in Blockchain

The healthcare industry should invest in blockchain technology, as it delivers a unique potential for various digital initiatives.


About the Author

Headshot of Jyoti BharwaniJyoti Bharwani is a content manager at Space-O Technologies. For more than 6 years, she has spent most of her time writing about mobile apps and mobile app marketing. She has recently published articles on the latest technologies, such as blockchain and augmented reality. In her free time, she enjoys reading non-fiction books.