It may look that blockchain and healthcare are the two most unrelated industries. While in reality they are closely linked to each other. Blockchain can be used as a decentralized place where medical institutions store, manage and share various data: from basic records to genetic information.
Further, those companies can use AI to analyze and create patterns from scattered data to predict and prevent severe health conditions. Patients also will get tailored insurance that considers those predictions.
But how to start these processes? How blockchain can change the industry today and how it transforms in the long run? What will be the main challenges in implementing those innovations? Check this article from a Defiway expert to find it out!
How Blockchain Can Transform Healthcare
Blockchain technology has great potential to revolutionize healthcare by improving its efficiency in every data-related aspect, not only in just finances. You can use it in medical record management (like MedRec and MIT Media Lab) and be sure that all patient data will be stored permanently in the blockchain. There will be no chance to witness the situation “I’ve just clicked the mouse and everything got lost!” because data will be stored in multiple nodes simultaneously.
The decentralized blockchain nature makes it far more difficult for hackers to break into the system. And usage of both public and private keys can ensure that all patient data will be stored securely and anonymously in the system.
Blockchain can provide a secure, transparent, and anonymous way of storing and managing data, which can be used by researchers in clinical trials (as in BlockMedx and Mediledger) and in supply chain management (like in Pfizer and Merck). It will become easier to predict supply needs because clinics and manufacturers can use AI tools that analyze scattered data.
This technology can also help patients. It can be used in telemedicine startups like Patientory to provide secure and transparent communication between patients and doctors. There is no need to keep the physical medical card because doctors may get access to the blockchain in any clinic that uses the same chain.
On the other hand, patients can voluntarily share their data with healthcare providers they like, as they do with Shivom 's developing platform. It helps to create more personalized medicine because data can be shared anonymously between researchers, helping develop an even more tailored experience for each patient. It’s already happening in the Encryption blockchain startup. And it can lead to fully-personalized insurance plans that cover all client’s needs. All claims will process more efficiently and accurately.
Challenges and Considerations
Medicine is an industry that thrives for maximum privacy. That’s why many people are afraid that blockchain is capable of maintaining it. So, most challenges are trust-related, and it’s fine. People naturally met with suspicion of each disruptive technology. And blockchain is not an exception. All health-chain startups will face many regulatory challenges. Medicine is an industry with strong demands for cyber security and anonymity. Each blockchain company in health care should find a way to collect data while keeping it anonymous.
Health-chain startups also face technical complexity issues due to increased data safety concerns. They will be required to make heavily protected services, which may be difficult to scale in the future. They will need to find a perfect balance between safety and scalability.
The health-chain industry will also need to create its data standardization. People relocate and change their health providers regularly. So clinics will look for blockchain tools with fine scalability.
All those challenges will lead to high costs of implementation. So, firstly we will see blockchain in big companies and corporations like Pfizer. And it may take 5+ years until medium-sized clinics and companies start to implement some blockchain tools into their workflow.
Despite the healthcare blockchain is still a young industry, we can witness dozens of successful startups. But they all face the same problem of sluggish adoption. This is the reason why they don’t evolve as fast as they could. And slow evolution leads to the slow development of health-chain laws, which is an explanation for why so many health-related companies are scared to adopt new tools into their workflow.
But few companies have already broken this vicious cycle. And today I want to show them to you:
- Medicalchain. Decentralized platform for medical record management. Users can store their health records and share them with healthcare providers who support this tool, such as Mayo Clinic or Groves Medical Group.
- SimplyVital. A similar platform for record management is used by Yale New Haven Health System and Connecticut Hospital Association.
- Insilico Medicine. A blockchain-based platform that aims to ease the development and testing of new drugs and therapies. This platform uses blockchain to create a transparent and secure network for medical research and drug development. They are already partnering with Oxford University and Johns Hopkins University.
- Medical Token Currency (MTC). It’s a blockchain-based platform for healthcare payment management and incentivizing healthy behavior. It uses blockchain to create a network for healthcare payments and rewards. They expect that such gamification helps to improve patients’ health in the long run. They are already working with the American College of Radiology and the American Medical Association.
As for today, the most common health blockchain startups are recording management systems. They are relatively easy to implement and scale. Developers could use similar decisions as in well-proven finance-related blockchain startups. We may see a fierce battle between dozens of health blockchain record providers in the next two-three years. Speaking about other service types, they mostly stay experimental for the next 5-7 years.
- The future of the health blockchain may look uncertain for the next 2-3 years, but it feels promising and prospective in the long run. As you already can understand from this article, we will see more and more record management systems. And they become a starting point for blockchain implementation in the healthcare industry.
- The fact is the health blockchain industry will be the most highly regulated industry for blockchain-based startups. They will be regulated not just by HIPAA or GDPR, but by many other strict laws.
- At the same time, all startups should maintain the maximum possible interoperability and scalability. And it may be complex, speaking from the tech side. So, naturally, businesses will start from that part of the health industry, where they get fewer regulations.
- We already see first supply chain management and health insurance startups, and we will see them even more. They will become more and more common. They are relatively easy to implement even under current laws, but at the same time, they don’t have the same competitiveness as record management systems. So, the growth of supply management and insurance blockchain startups will be natural.
- We also will see the slow but sure growth of telemedicine and precision medicine. We already see the rising popularity of telemedicine even with current tools. It’s easy to get a consultation online, and it will become even easier in the future.
- Smart gadgets will send crucial health information (heart rate, blood sugar) to the app, which sends it to the chain, so doctors get an even better understanding of patients’ current health conditions without seeing them in real life. And it will play a positive role in clinical trials and the drug development process.
- You may think that it may be pretty hard to securely share and work with this excessive amount of data. And you are right. That’s why we also will see the rise of patient identity management services which will act as a middleman for blockchain startups, medical institutions, cyber security companies, and the government. Their main task will be to control the implementation of health blockchain tools, preventing data breaches and abuse of authority for any party involved.
Blockchain has revolutionary potential in the healthcare industry, but it will take a lot of time to reveal it. Blockchain can provide a secure and transparent way of storing and managing data. But at the same time, all parties involved will face huge regulatory challenges.
Healthcare is already considered as one of the most regulated industries. And the same thing will relate to all blockchain startups that want to start working there. So, we will see many stars in related industries but not in healthcare itself.
We already see dozens of medical records and payment management services. The main reason is that they don’t face the same strict regulations and clinical digital tools. So there will be fierce competition between those companies in the next 5-10 years.
Eventually, we will see more health-related startups, such as Insilico Medicine. But considering technical and law complexity, there will be fewer companies, and they may not have similar scalability as record management tools.
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