Before discussing the benefits that blockchain technology could provide for the healthcare industry, let’s address the elephant in the room: we can’t be 100 percent certain that these use cases will pan out. There are simply too few test cases to accurately gauge the likelihood that these potential advantages will become reality.
That said, experts see blockchain impacting billing, payments, record storage and sharing, credentialing, and even the way medical professionals issue diagnoses.
But there’s a massive gap between existing healthcare technology and the blockchain. Fax machines, for example, are common and often essential in healthcare facilities.
If the gap between the 1980s-style healthcare technology and cutting-edge technologies of today aren’t aligned, blockchain implementation has little chance of success. But if that gap is filled, patients and caregivers would gain access to an interoperable, blockchain-powered store of health records. This unified database would provide a trove of patient-linked information, leading to more accurate, well-informed diagnoses. The database could also serve as a record of services rendered in case of litigation, while it could hold and verify caregiver credentials.
More forward-looking use cases include linking blockchain ledgers to machines to ensure that billed services were actually performed. This would be a massive step in reducing billing fraud, already rampant in the industry.
1. Andrew Hoppin, CEO and Co-founder of CoverUS
“Economic efficiency deriving from improved data interoperability. If we're able to recover trust, and able to more directly engage patients as key stakeholders in their data value chains, we can chart a path to more transparent markets for health data exchange, health products, and health service delivery; this all rolls up to a more a efficient and also more ethical future state of the health system. Blockchains aren't a panacea, but they can help with key transparency and transactional efficiency use cases that make this future state more likely to come to pass.”
2. Ildar Fazulyanov, CEO and Founder of WELL
“Decentralization. It’s the buzzword constantly used in regards to blockchain but without it, none of the other benefits are possible. Decentralization allows users to not rely on third-party handlers within the system, both of data and of services. This allows the end user to own their own data and also monetize the data. This also provides security in the fact that everything in this decentralized system has trace-ability such as records, procedures, and even payments.”
3. Matt Riemann, Health Futurist and Founder of Shae
“The future success of healthcare will be determined by simplicity and consistency in open data sharing. The current paradigm of numerous existing closed independent systems that cannot communicate or integrate with each other will soon be disrupted or implode, as the need to understand big data in meaningful ways for each unique person becomes paramount to public health concerns and economic burdens. Blockchain promises this foundation, while allowing ownership and control of personal health data to remain with the user. It also mandates transparent reporting of how, when and by whom personal health data is being accessed or used. And it also ensures secure encryption of transactional data to address privacy concerns for all parties involved in the transaction.”
4. Michael Dershem, CEO and Founder of MAPay
“The fundamental nature of blockchain is a verifiable ledger that provides a historical record that can’t be changed or interfered. The use case for patient medical records in such areas as diagnosing, clinical trials and to set disease management protocols are apparent; additionally in areas of provider credentialing, which is error-prone and fraught with overbearing redundancy could be streamlined for all participants. Smart contracts could be created around the encounter payment transaction which would collapse the costs relating to financial transaction and take out the ambiguity and inefficiency that exists today.”
5. Matthew Sinderbrand, CEO and Co-founder of BetterPath
“The short answer is that we still don’t know. Blockchain’s true benefit is its ability to create agreement in networks where multiple stakeholders transact around a single endpoint. But in healthcare, we still can’t agree on WHO someone is, and most organizations are still operating on IT that’s 20-30 years old – literally, the fax machine accounts for 75% of all medical communications today – so this means we’re trying to shove high-tech solutions on top of low-tech problems. Blockchain cannot make a significant impact on healthcare until we find a way to address this technology gap; that said, healthcare’s trend toward local, cooperative provider-payer partnerships and ecosystems could expedite the process substantially.”
6. Aamir Butt, CEO of Lancor Scientific
“Blockchain technology allows for better targeting of at-risk groups for cancer screening, because the data available is better. Patients own their own healthcare data when blockchain technology is used so the data has greatly more integrity. For example, between 5% and 20% of NHS data is not tied specifically to a patient, and in the US, healthcare data is tied to a patient-event rather than a patient. By moving to a blockchain architecture, it is easier to segment and target people more effectively, because the data is tied to the patient.
The use of cryptographic handshakes before data is transferred ensures that the right information is allocated to the right patient, and the right tests are performed so that the right future care can be planned and delivered. Indeed, that provides for devices to be authenticated as well. The practice of medical fraud – use of fake devices, charging patients for tests not done and more – is relevant across the world, but especially in developing countries. By authenticating devices on the blockchain, using these cryptographic handshakes, the opportunity for that fraud is shrunk dramatically.”
7. Todd Chamberlain, CEO and Founder of MedBlox
8. Ofer Lidsky, CEO and Founder of Digital DNAtix Ltd
“Digital genetics is one of the best use cases in the blockchain-healthcare sector and will be the first one to be deployed into production systems. In the case of genomics, blockchain introduces new features that upgrade the level of security, anonymity and data immutability which is a crucial function for genomic data. So, I would go for immutability as the number one factor before all others.”
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