Over the past year or so, blockchain has taken global commerce and industry sectors by storm, including the healthcare industry and experts in this field. In theory, the possibilities for business and the benefits for consumers seem endless on the blockchain platform. Touted as the next internet revolution, digital ledger technology (DLT) promises to transform the way we currently do business, with a shared, transparent, secure, immutable and efficient infrastructure that will significantly improve customer service and increase performance and profit margins for industries.
It is no wonder that this innovative technology is also turning heads in the healthcare sector, where the administration of client records constitutes an important part of the management of healthcare provision.
This article gives a taster of some of the more evident benefits that can be reaped by healthcare providers.
A key feature that would improve the provision of healthcare is accurate data and powerful monitoring. The infrastructure stores transactions and records in a decentralised manner, and the data is accessible to all participants on the system. The data is portable and uniform across platforms.
A blockchain can enable longitudinal patient records as it compiles episodes, lab results and treatments. On this system, effective data tracking becomes faster and more qualitative, significantly decreasing mismatched or duplicated records. It enhances precision and transparency while at the same time saving crucial resources like time, costs and efforts.
Not only does DLT provide integrated healthcare information but it also maintains traceable transactions of every data input instance. Imagine the ability to track the movement of medication from producer to patient. This makes for enhanced transparency, crucial to the doctor-patient relationship. Moreover, the infrastructure boasts immutable transactions that cannot be tampered with.
The protection of patient data is crucial in the healthcare industry and confidentiality of health records is a sine qua non. Equipped with the latest cryptographic features the blockchain infrastructure promises fool-proof data security.
The healthcare industry is highly driven by research and the sharing of research results across key stakeholders. This involves the collaboration of a number of interested parties where valuable insights into trends must be shared for the collective benefits to be reaped. Distributed ledger technology could empower participants in the community to collaborate and contribute to group research.
A blockchain can enable longitudinal patient records as it compiles episodes, lab results and treatments
Due to streamlined flow, uniform portability, and multi-faceted protection, blockchain can prove to be highly lucrative for healthcare providers. The technology’s features maximises the potential of standardised, accurate data that is decentralised, making it highly efficient and doing away with the onerous burden of data reconciliation. It can save costs in the drugs supply process and in the prevention of fraud. It can also transform revenue cycle management. The system’s automation processes helps to maximise the potential of human resource productivity over a shorter time. This helps save on performance costs and lowers expenses related to administration, so that overall budgets and funds can be better utilised.
It is clear that the huge potentials of blockchain play a pivotal role in reshaping the healthcare industry. The deployment of new technologies, however, is dependent on the appetite for innovation and investment by organisations in the sector.
Blockchain does not come without challenges. It can be costly to create, trial and deploy. It requires collaboration between technical experts, industry specialists, researchers and partners, as well as a consumer base willing to adapt to how it obtains health services.
Viewing the situation laterally, there are also clear challenges on data sharing across public and private healthcare service providers, on how to standardise information recorded differently by various doctors, clinics and laboratories seen by a single patient.
A new technology that handles sensitive information also needs a legal basis and a regulatory framework that guarantees customer protection and compliance with industry integrity.
In this respect, Malta is way ahead of many countries in establishing a legal and compliance framework within which these innovations can happen across industries. This reflects the Maltese government’s vision for the country to become a leader in blockchain research and development. With a number of Bills already given the green light by Parliament, Malta is attracting tangible interest from both international and local industry players. Healthcare provides should be among these.
Nicholas Warren is a senior manager in the Financial Services Practice Group at Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates.