Blockchain solutions bring a welcome change to healthcare. Industry leaders are searching for ways to implement new technology into their business operations. According to a survey conducted in 2017, 93% of managed care organizations and 70% of hospitals reported that they considered blockchain to show a lot of promise for improving data interoperability. In 2020, blockchain technology went further and proved to be able to change the industry, bringing opportunities to make healthcare more accessible and transparent.
There has been a lot of hype around blockchain recently, as this technology seems an easy and straightforward solution to many pain points faced by the healthcare industry. With the need for digitization of medical records such as patient data, an interoperability issue arose. A surprising fact is that despite the efforts of authorities in this field, no patient identifier would be universally recognizable. A unique identifier could make the industry’s shift to electronic records faster and easier, preventing mismatches in data that is transferred between healthcare systems. According to the Director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics (CBMI), 20% of patient records are not accurately matched even within the same systems, not to mention the accuracy when data is shared with others.
Despite being considered illegal, information blocking is still typical when it comes to data sharing. In 2017, according to the Adler-Milstein survey, 50% of 60 health information exchange leaders admitted to practicing information blocking. A quarter of them considered hospitals and health systems guilty of it. They believe information exchange may lead to patient “stealing” and forces hospitals to secure patient records, especially from their competitors.
Blockchain technology provides a new decentralized model for health data encryption and sharing to remove the need for intermediaries who store big data to guarantee its security. Entering the blockchain, data becomes immutable and traceable. It reduces transaction costs and eliminates data manipulation, enabling the network of peers to track real-time updates.
Patient records are not the only field where big data interoperability and management matter. Clinical trials and medical research require the administration to keep accurate records generating loads of data. Blockchain-based software makes the process simpler by enabling big data aggregation and distribution among practitioners and researchers. According to ClinicalTrials.gov, the number of registered studies has grown more than 35 times over the past 10 years — from 1,139 studies in 2010 to 40,675 in 2020. The industry lacks the system to coordinate research data and translate them into key insights that can then be used by practitioners and applied to patients.
The implementation of blockchain can streamline the process of matching between patients, practitioners, manufacturers, and researchers. Blockchain-based solutions, such as health data marketplaces, where patients are incentivized to anonymously share their health records with researchers, push innovations forward.
Then why use blockchain in healthcare? One reason is that it allows for patient-centered care. Blockchain tools enhance patient engagement in his health management by giving some control over how his medical records are shared across institutes. The network of payers and practitioners may access the data after receiving necessary permission for it. The patient can be also incentivized to keep up with his care plan through a reward mechanism that blockchain-based platforms contain.
Solve.Care, which is acknowledged as the Most Innovative Blockchain Project in 2019, is a bright example of how a blockchain-based solution can fundamentally change disease management and coordination. Their Diabetes Care Administration Network launched in partnership with the Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. enhances patient engagement and encourages them to keep a healthier lifestyle. The platform reminds patients about check-ups and provides reliable information about their condition and its management. It even enables family members to participate in the care coordination of their loved ones. A leading U.S. care organization, Arizona Care Network, became the first organization to launch the platform for more than 25,000 of their patients.
These projects are not the only solutions that seem to change our perception of health care delivery. Solve.Care went further, and in 2020 announced the Global Telehealth Exchange (GTHE) platform for remote telemedicine available globally. GTHE is a solution where patients can search practitioners according to their profile information and rates. They then can make an online appointment for a consultation on their condition. After the appointment time was confirmed, and the patient approved access to his medical data, practitioners can check health records of the patient, including his past medical records.
According to Solve.Care CEO, Pradeep Goel: “The Covid-19 pandemic has severely tested the way healthcare systems are organized and delivered from a number of perspectives. Now, more and more patients are reluctant to visit their doctors due to the pandemic. Medical practitioners who are not primarily involved in treating Covid-19 cases have experienced a significant drop in patient appointments. The launch of Global Telehealth Exchange is geared towards remedying this imbalance.”
Blockchain tools are being used in healthcare to solve the problems the industry is struggling with in the era of digitalization. Blockchain offers a straightforward and effective solution to big data processing and management. And, in 2020, blockchain technology does not only alleviate pain points of the healthcare industry but also creates opportunities for the industry to be revolutionized in its core, by making healthcare more patient-centric and accessible worldwide.