The impact of blockchain on the healthcare industry in the Internet era

Today, the healthcare industry is undergoing a “digital decentralization” transformation of the healthcare delivery model. Most countries have policies or strategies aimed at digital health, however, the security, integrity and access control of current personal health data remain highly problematic, leading to inefficient digital health workflows, and blockchain technology may be able to drive this transformation in the healthcare industry.

Frequent leaks of private patient information continue to reveal that the centralized database or file cabinet style management of healthcare organizations is far from keeping pace with the development of the times. With the popularization of fingerprint data application and genetic data testing methods, the consequences of medical data leakage are becoming more and more serious, and the attributes of blockchain, such as tide-sourceable, non-tamperable, high redundancy, security and transparency, and low cost, all highlight that it is the best solution for medical data storage.

Electronic Health Record (EHR). As a distributed ledger technology, the basic application of blockchain is data preservation, and this is no different for the healthcare industry. The main application of blockchain in the medical industry is the preservation of personal medical records, which can be understood as electronic health records on the blockchain. By using blockchain to store medical health data, patients can control their own medical history and use it as a basis for personal health planning and finding other doctors to consult. Blockchain technology will create a new framework for connecting the healthcare industry, linking vital data across all healthcare platforms, and ensuring the validity and security of the data. For the healthcare industry, this will allow hospitals, insurance companies and medical labs to connect in real time and share information instantly and seamlessly, without the fear of information leakage or tampering.

Medical data sharing. Blockchain will provide a new way of data sharing for the medical industry. The unique properties of blockchain can provide a decentralized distributed database that can record, verify and update information generated by users during their activities in healthcare facilities. Access control to protected medical information during decentralized medical data interactions to ensure its authenticity and integrity. In addition, the successful deployment of blockchain technology on the basis of the existing HIT (Health Information Technology) system will greatly improve the management efficiency by replacing the traditional third-party agencies in the existing health data exchange workflow.

Pharmaceutical anti-counterfeiting. The application of blockchain in the field of pharmaceutical supply chain is still in its initial stage, which only includes anti-counterfeiting verification and drug tracking at present. Blockchain’s anti-counterfeiting verification is similar to coding anti-counterfeiting technology. For drugs that use blockchain technology for anti-counterfeiting, there is a surface on the surface of the drug package that can be scratched off, the unique legitimacy of the drug. Underneath this is a special verification tag that can be cross-referenced with blockchain data to ensure the unique legitimacy of the drug. By combining blockchain technology with the drug supply chain, pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers and the maximum degree of traceability of drugs, and thus the maximum degree of patient safety, fundamentally change the global drug safety status.

In summary, blockchain technology can help the healthcare industry solve some pressing issues such as data security, data sharing, drug supply chain sourcing, insurance notarization, and billing fraud. In addition, blockchain can optimize existing IT systems or digital workflows and introduce new business models to improve care coordination. Despite the huge potential of blockchain in the healthcare industry, its technological development is still at the machine-level stage. Blockchain is an infrastructure for the future digital society and a “pillar” of the word transformation, but its replacement of the existing healthcare order and digital systems across industries is not going to happen overnight. It is also not a one-size-fits-all solution in a healthcare industry that uses different terminology to manage conflicting data standards. Therefore, it is also critical for healthcare stakeholders to selectively evaluate the configuration of blockchain technology in potential healthcare cases.

The integration of blockchain in healthcare will be a slow process. Regulations regarding patient privacy make it difficult for stakeholders to engage and for third parties to access relevant but unidentifiable information. GDPR within the EU also has the potential to conflict with blockchain projects, although it could also be a catalyst for improved compliance solutions. The lack of data standards means that blockchain projects are operating in a difficult environment. Scalability remains an issue for most blockchain projects, as storing data on the blockchain is very expensive. However, solutions to these problems are currently being explored.

Blockchain technology and distributed ledgers have great potential in healthcare. Blockchain can put patients at the center of the healthcare ecosystem by giving them control over one of their most valuable resources, namely their data. However, understanding when and where it works is what matters most. As the ecosystem is built, the opportunities to deploy blockchain applications will grow. However, centralization also has its advantages, including speed, privacy and more. Knowing when to choose between centralization or decentralization will be key. The healthcare industry is expected to see more blockchain entrants trying to find a balance between the two. This could completely change healthcare processes, business models, and information flow technologies.

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