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Blockchain Healthcare UK Challenges and Opportunities

A new mainstream, set out in the NHS Long Term Plan of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) in 2019, is digitally enabled care. With the help of technological advances, the plan aims to discover new possibilities for care delivery, prevention, and treatment. The plan builds on several broad topics of a policy paper published by the government in 2018, “The future of healthcare: our vision for digital, data and technology in health and care”, which introduces a new approach and sets clear standards for leveraging technology in healthcare.

The plan recognizes that interoperability of confidential data that complied with the available technology standards is a starting point for changes to come into force. Leaving aside problems of data record standardization, to ensure their proper exchange, the most pressing concern of the NHS seems to be still data privacy. Research on trust in data and attitudes toward data use in the UK showed that people are concerned about their data being used, with only 36% of participants trusting the NHS to use their data appropriately (17% of surveyed people had low trust and scored 0-4 out of 10).

A recent breach of NHS data affected 150,000 patients. The WannaCry cyberattack in 2017 led to the disruption of at least 34% of NHS organizations and the cancellation of over 20,000 appointments and operations. The attack heightened public concerns over the NHS IT security. The immutable nature of blockchain provides the ability to see instantly who accessed the data and how the data was used. It also enables patients to assign and unassign access privileges, echoing the NHS aspirations set out in the plan to deliver more patient-centered care.

Unique attributes of blockchain, including transparency, security, and tamper-proofing make it an efficient and trustworthy method of storing data. Apart from improving data security, blockchain could solve the problem of siloed data, that hampers data sharing in the UK. Misdiagnosis is a major global problem that ensues from the ineffective usage of clinical data in healthcare. Its incidence rate is 10-20%, and it could be lowered significantly if the clinical data was readily available in one place. Due to problems in record keeping, transferring, and verification, doctors do not have access to complete medical history. Patients have to recite the entire story each time they meet a specialist, which creates more difficulties to maintain a single copy of any medical record.

blockchain healthcare uk

Data transfer and verification problems come in when managing staff shortages, which are well-documented across the UK’s healthcare sector. In 2018, the BMJ reported over 100,000 staff shortfalls in the NHS, forecasting that number to grow up to 250,000 by 2030. With the spread of COVID-19, the problem is especially severe, as the industry lacks professionals to deal with the virus outbreak.

Blockchain is effective when it comes to simplifying credential transfers and verification processes. But considering the realities of today’s world, it goes even further and offers the industry new opportunities for data sharing and care delivery. Solve.Care is a widely acknowledged innovative developer of blockchain solutions for healthcare. Their collaboration with the Arizona Care Network and the implementation of the blockchain-based platform for both physicians and patients were awarded by the National Association of Accountable Care Organizations (NAACOS). In 2019, they partnered with a leading pharmaceutical company, Boehringer Ingelheim, to launch a blockchain-based platform for patients with chronic diabetes. They are aiming to redesign the way chronic diseases are managed today by increasing the engagement of patients and their families in the treatment.

In 2020, Solve.Care announced their Global Telehealth Exchange (GTHE), where patients can search for suitable practitioners according to their credentials, ranking, and rates. Once the appointment is approved by both the patient and practitioner, the doctor receives access to the patient’s medical records, which is stored securely on the platform.

“Today marks a milestone moment for Solve.Care and our global community of physicians as we continue to tackle the challenges facing the global healthcare system. Telehealth is a major real-world solution that is breaking down barriers in our healthcare systems, increasing accessibility, and reducing inequality. GTHE goes even further than a simple teleconsultation and is designed to meet the needs of physicians and patients alike, whilst minimizing paperwork and bureaucracy and respecting the rights and privacy of both patients and physicians,” said Pradeep Goel, CEO of Solve.Care.

It is not the first solution the company developed while considering the “new realities”. Their Team.Care Network, for workforce management, helps employees to stay safe and productive while working from home.

Blockchain healthcare UK still has much more to overcome, and the biggest challenge is that the NHS is not digitally ready. The majority of NHS Trusts are not fully digitized, despite the former governmental plans to move the NHS to paperless by 2020. According to the NHS Long Term Plan, the transition to digital records is required to be completed by 2023, but the progress is still to be made – with only 37% of surveyed Trusts having half of the medical records in digital format. Considering the lack of digitization, it is crucial to implement blockchain technologies that are proved to be effective and easily adopted. They should offer simple and automated data entering while helping solve other data-related problems almost immediately after adoption.

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