It’s one of the hottest topics in the IT world at present. The concept of blockchain, a tamper-proof digital ledger that can be shared over a peer-to-peer network, has grabbed the attention of everyone in recent months, from ambitious start-ups through to established tech giants.
Of course, we know all about blockchain’s potential for areas like FinTech, where it powers popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. But look beyond the headlines, and you’ll find that blockchain has the potential to transform virtually every industry you can think of, including for healthcare.
We live in a world where care providers are generally having to cater for more people, and with less money. In order to maintain this tricky balancing act, running an efficient, secure IT infrastructure is key. Blockchain-based solutions can make that happen.
Indeed, the benefits of a blockchain-based healthcare IT system can extend to everyone involved: the patients being treated, the healthcare organisations delivering care, and service providers like you that help implement these systems. In this blog, we’ll look at these benefits in turn and how they can positively affect all of us.
Over the last few decades, the expectations and habits of patients have changed significantly. It’s now common for patients to come into contact with multiple different care providers for different issues. For example, general practice, specialists, surgeons and emergency staff may all theoretically have to deal with the same patient within a short space of time.
Patients are coming to expect all those different caregivers to know their entire medical history and information. Blockchain can help make this a reality, by providing patients with control over their own health data; so, they can effectively manage consent and access to their information where they see fit.
This means everyone can have a complete view of a patient, all the time, therefore guiding better co-ordination of care, and preventing conflicting treatments and diagnoses. And in a world of increasing Big Data, getting the framework in place to maintain this level of service in the future will be crucial. As Shahram Ebadollahi, IBM Watson Health’s chief science officer, puts it: “Everyone talks about Big Data, but there needs to be a longitudinal view of the data that sits in different silos. Blockchain enables that.”
For care providers
Blockchain represents the best of both worlds from the business perspective of a care provider. Not only can it improve communication and increase the usefulness of data so providers can serve patients better, but it means they can do so in a cost-effective manner compared to more traditional IT infrastructures.
The reasons for this are many. To start with, the permanent status of the information entered into a blockchain ledger can help increase the security of that data. Although it will still be important for care providers to put robust security measures in place, this can give highly sensitive medical data extra protection against tampering or misuse.
Secondly, real-time processing of information can bring down transaction costs as well as transaction times, delivering efficiencies across businesses as new information is distributed faster.
And thirdly, information can be recorded to the blockchain from all kinds of devices, including the wearables which are becoming increasingly popular in the healthcare industry. This can yield long-term savings for care providers as it will make integration of the latest devices much easier in the future.
Together, these reasons can make it possible for care providers to leverage a strong, modern data system, in spite of the increasing constraints on healthcare budgets that are so common around the world today.
For service providers
From the perspective of a service provider like you, the viability of Blockchain within a healthcare environment is an exciting proposition. Not only are more technically-minded healthcare professionals talking about it, but so are the big decision-makers: social media analysis conducted by Healthcare Research & Analytics detected 56,000 conversations around blockchain for healthcare in 2017 alone.
It’s looking likely that over the course of the next 12 months, more and more healthcare bodies will be turning to service providers like you to help them embrace the possibilities within blockchain. Having an integrated, practical solution that they can leverage won’t necessarily be an easy task, especially if you’re relatively new to the technology yourself.
However, if you can get yourself up to speed quickly, you can gain a strong competitive edge in a marketplace that’s poised for growth. Teaming up with an expert partner may well be the best way for you to reduce your go-to-market time, and could help you win new business as interest from the healthcare industry grows.
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