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How blockchain technology will transform the healthcare industry

A new infographic from Study Medicine Europe reveals how blockchain can optimise the healthcare and pharma industries. Here, the information is broken down and discussed.

Blockchain

Health is a priority

Prioritising and managing our health is increasingly important as our lifestyles evolve in ways that take a toll on our physical, mental and emotional health. In 2020, health remains a United Nations globally recognised basic human right1 with an enduring emphasis on the importance of observing ethical principles in health policy-making, health research and service provision. In January 2020, the UK BBC reported recent figures that about 30p of every £1 spent on public services is allocated to health – more than any other area.2 This 30 percent is significant, so the technological components of health services administration and how this can be used to deliver more efficient, cohesive and consistent outcomes might not immediately come to mind.

Health systems and areas for improvement

blockchainA major issue for patients often lies in the accuracy of treatment – whether that is during a normal GP consultation or seeing a specialist. This exists as an organisational hindrance in terms of accessibility to medical records, with recent changes in privacy legislation and data management meaning patients can have difficulty retrieving their own records, even under normal circumstances. Reviewing technology and how it can improve the health industry has led to discussions that blockchain data services may streamline record management without compromising on security. Blockchain is based on innovation and improvement, enabling enhanced organisation to achieve better outcomes for both the health industry and its patients. Interviewed in Healthcare IT News, Dr John Halamka said: “The technology could help address the ‘vexing problem’ facing health systems everywhere: how to share more medical data with more stakeholders for more purposes, all while ensuring data integrity and protecting patient privacy.”3

How blockchain technology works

This technology functions using an encrypted data ledger that links secure blocks of information together. Data is stored in synced databases that are replicated without a central administrator. As it is a distributed database and records are spread across a network, this allows efficient data collection while maintaining system security.

How it makes health data more secure and promotes health

As we get further into 2020, the health of our communities and world is the most important topic we can be discussing. Furthermore, in a time where health professionals are working against the clock with governments to maintain public health, secure and streamlined access to health data can literally save lives. Blockchain technology makes patient data more secure because decentralised data storage makes it harder to hack – there are multiple interconnected servers and changes cannot be isolated to just one server; more than 51 percent of servers4 need to be attacked to compromise the network. When it comes to the storage of health data, having a database network means a patient can have their own password that they use to verify access to records at a range of hospitals and medical offices, thus maintaining accurate data that promotes health without the need for vulnerable personal records. In terms of both individual and collective health, unified data systems assist both a single patient and wider groups of people because patterns as well as disease spread can be identified quickly. According to Sergey Golubev, “These technologies are now relevant as never before, not just to business and the economy but the future of public health and the safety of global populations.”5

Health benefits for individuals, communities and organisations

At a glance, the benefits of blockchain technology are multifaceted across the healthcare industry – whether it is for an ordinary patient, the wider community or health professionals. Here are just a few:

  • Privacy: Blockchain technology offers increased privacy for the ordinary citizen, in particular if their personal ‘key’ code is required to access records. Additionally, the block structure means administrative users can only update entries they are granted access to – overall records in the chain remain secure.
  • De-stigmatisation: An enduring issue in public health is stigmatised issues and how this affects patients seeking treatment. The privacy and security offered with blockchain records means patients retain some control and their history cannot be transferred between professionals without their permission. Patient confidentiality can be maintained much more effectively thus offering greater scope for them privately accessing clinical support.
  • Organisation: In an industry where record-keeping is fundamental, it is no surprise that healthcare is drowning in data management. Not only is it difficult to achieve data consistency between staff let alone facilities, it is undeniable that, even with the best protocols, user error can occur. In health, user error has serious implications for both a single patient and entire communities. While blockchain technology keeps hospitals and clinics more organised, there is an additional benefit for patients in terms of how this can ensure their documents are well-managed, including prescriptions and billing.

Learn more about blockchain technology in healthcare

This infographic: ‘How Blockchains Will Transform Healthcare’, from Study Medicine Europe is an insightful guide that unpacks this new technology and its influence on the health industry. It can help you learn more about blockchain technologies by expanding on their functional benefits and explaining how implementation will affect the patient and medical professionals, as well as secure management of data. Understanding more about this technology has a practical value as we continue our efforts to promote better health and services in 2020 and beyond.

Blockchain infographic

Study Medicine Europe (SME) is a medical student recruitment business with offices in the UK, Germany, Greece and Cyprus. SME is committed to developing engaging content that informs and educates students and people interested in health and medicine.

References

  1. https://www.who.int/workforcealliance/knowledge/resources/Health2020_long.pdf
  2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-50290033
  3. https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/blockchain-use-case-electronic-health-records
  4. https://www.supplychainbrain.com/blogs/1-think-tank/post/31046-how-blockchain-technology-will-improve-mobile-healthcare
  5. https://medium.com/the-capital/health-public-in-blockchain-sauce-ff4d64c3a0bd
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