Blockchain is the basis of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, securely transferring information and money while ensuring anonymity and security. The Blockchain technology is being implemented far and wide while cryptocurrency remains a speculative investment at best. Here are a variety of ways how blockchain will transform healthcare, all of which are already in trials or demonstrations somewhere around the world.
Secure Health Records
By tying adoption of electronic health records to full reimbursement rates, many medical offices have adopted electronic health records, but this has come at a literal cost in making IT a major back office expense for many practices, pushing them to join hospital networks. Another cost has been the sheer amount of time doctors and other medical staff are having to dedicate to data entry and communications with other practitioners when there are differences in formats, unclear scanned images, duplicate records and uncertainty in the information sent. The challenge of adopting, maintaining and upgrading healthcare IT systems to manage EHR is a key part of any Healthcare MBA program, and so complex that you can actually earn a degree in healthcare IT just to take on the challenge. Blockchain can potentially make it much more manageable.
Smart contracts use blockchain to authenticate someone’s signature and prevent its alteration. Smart contracts are already being used in a variety of real estate transactions so that people can review and sign contracts wherever they are located. This same technology is starting to be used in other types of contracts and legal documents. Expect to see the same technology enabling smart contracts to buy a new condo used to record and validate signatures on a healthcare power of attorney or end of life directive. Such contracts will eventually reach patients when they are reading privacy agreements and payment terms.
The End of Diploma Mills
Someone can say they have a degree from an institution, but how do you know they really do if you don’t have the time to vet every credential they list on the resume? Then there’s the problem of determining whether the awarding institution is legitimate in and of itself unless it is already a brand name like Ivy League schools. Sony says it wants to use Blockchain to digitize education records from K-12 public schools to healthcare MBA online graduates. If broadly adopted, Blockchain backed records could make continuing education credentials and micro-degrees much more widely accepted because they are verifiable via a proven technology.
Blockchain was designed for accounting purposes. This makes tracking balances due by patients part of its core competency. Another use is tracking the total prescriptions patients have received and giving doctors an accurate overview of everything the patient receives in real time without having to exchange data with pharmacies, hospitals and their other medical practitioners. Patients enjoy simpler billing and fewer accounting mistakes, while doctors can track inventory used by patients and identify who may be abusing pills by going through multiple sources.
Blockchain technology goes way beyond Bitcoin and other crypto currencies. Blockchain enables secure health records and data sharing between institutions. Smart contract technology already used in real estate will start appearing in medical forms like powers of attorney and end of life directives. Blockchain technology is already being used to digitize and track school records and should allow people to soon verify all types of credentials and diplomas. Blockchain simplifies accounting and billing while reducing the potential for fraud.