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10 Blockchain Applications in Health Care
Blockchain has been around for a long time, but for many years, it was considered a rogue option. Most people think of blockchain and Bitcoin as interchangeable, but they are actually two very different things. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are just that: currencies. Blockchain is the technology used to manage them. Blockchain applications in health care are surprisingly common, since the technology is highly secure and encrypted.
In Estonia, blockchain in health care has been the norm since 2012, and the country uses blockchain for 95% of its health data, 99% of its prescription information, and 100% of its health care billing system.
Blockchain applications in health care
How are those in the world of health care utilizing blockchain? It’s surprising how commonplace it is now, but there are definitely several applications, thanks to its extreme security.
1.Secure patient data
Patient data is some of the most valuable medical data out there, but it’s also the most vulnerable. Between 2009 and 2017, more than 176 million patient records were released in data breaches. This was a major issue not only due to privacy concerns (genomic testing records and health records were taken), but also because credit card and banking information was stolen by the thieves. Blockchain keeps information secure and is ideal for safeguarding medical data.
The current method of updating and sharing medical records for any given patient only allows doctors within a specific organization or group of organizations to do so. If the information could be released to other organizations, it would mean that researchers could access far more data. This would make clinical research more accurate, thanks to access to hundreds of thousands of medical records. However, these records are locked down due to security issues. Blockchain provides a secure means to reach these records for anyone who is authorized and needs access.
At the moment, it can be quite the process to change doctors. You need to request your file from your current health care provider, then get it in paper format and take it to your new doctor. With blockchain, that is not necessary. Blockchain allows doctors to share a private key that the patient can easily give to anyone who needs it, providing access to the necessary health data to selected doctors or specialists. This would also eliminate the difficulty of waiting for your doctor’s office to process your request, since patients would always have access to their own records via the private key.
Some drug addicts are adept at finding ways to get more drugs of their choice. With blockchain, companies such as BurstIQ have made it possible to track a patient’s health care activity. This allows them to determine if the patient is seeking opioids or other drugs by visiting multiple doctors or hospitals, and they can instantly spot any changes in drug consumption.
5.Keep DNA sequencing private
Many people avoid having their DNA tested due to worries about how that information may be used. There are some valid concerns there, but with blockchain, the information can be kept completely private. DNA testing allows people to find out if they are genetically predisposed to certain diseases, but it also allows them to find out more about their background and genetic issues. With the right security system, there will be no worries that your genetic information may be used for nefarious purposes.
6.More accurate patient care
When someone shows up at the hospital or sees multiple specialists, it’s not uncommon for things to go missing. One doctor may have no idea that another prescribed something, or patients may be confused about the medications they’re taking and report the wrong information. Without the actual records right there, it’s possible for things to go very wrong. Blockchain allows doctors and other health care professionals to make notes and instantly have them uploaded to the patient chart. Anyone can access the information with the secure key and see who else has examined the patient, what medications they prescribed, and what care they provided.
Whenever a patient signs a contract, it can be immediately uploaded with blockchain. This makes the contract much more secure, but it also means the contract will never accidentally vanish when a nurse is trying to retrieve it for a doctor. The information is all uploaded instantly and ready for doctors and other health care workers to review.
8.Tracing medical supplies
It’s not uncommon for medical supplies to go missing from time to time, but the ability to trace things through blockchain means you should never lose another shipment. The information is secure, and materials can be traced as needed. This is particularly useful for important items such as pharmaceutical supplies. Additionally, you can even check who is working, calculate labor costs, and track the carbon emissions resulting from the order.
Outbreaks are obviously a major concern these days, and we need ways to track them better. Blockchain enables real-time disease reporting and origin tracing. Thanks to blockchain’s unique capabilities, it’s possible to figure out how viruses or bacteria are propagating and spreading. Determining the transmission mode and rate can allow people to take appropriate safety measures.
10.Health insurance claims
Another area that requires heavy privacy and security is health insurance claims. Blockchain can easily trace exactly when medical events occur. This lets the health insurance company see exactly what happened and allows no room for faking injuries or changing the data.
As you can see, blockchain has many applications in health care. This method of securing data is certain to become more popular in the near future.