Blockchain technology offers great potential to improve patient care and could help optimise healthcare services. Thanks to its decentralised structure, patient and health data integration simplifies access to various applications and persons, such as different attending physicians. This opens up improved preventive and treatment possibilities for patients on the one hand while simultaneously cutting cost, administration and time expenditure for doctors and others involved in healthcare provision. Moreover, the technology promises to standardise the various systems used in healthcare settings – one of the major challenges currently facing medical facilities and service providers. Read on to discover what other advantages blockchain offers healthcare and which applications are possible.
The advantages of using blockchain in healthcare
Blockchain has the potential to change how patient data is administered and exchanged. The ability to store data immutably – in secure and decentralized form – makes the technology an attractive tool for public health. At present, one of the biggest challenges in terms of patient care is keeping patient data up to date, secure and accessible. In this context, the secure and trustworthy exchange of data depends on the specific point-to-point connection (P2P) used. It is difficult to establish a network here since the parties involved must be able to verify when which data has been passed to whom.
On the other hand, blockchain technology and its cryptographic functions can guarantee the secure exchange of data. This would also eliminate the laborious implementation of a P2P connection.
Another benefit of using blockchain is the lower transaction costs since fewer IT systems must be implemented. This also reduces the complexity of the individual systems. That makes it possible to process data almost in real time. Moreover, since every data record in a network is updated simultaneously, blockchain can also replace different data standards.
Thanks to decentralisation, patient records and the identity of the persons involved are better protected. The data can only be read with private and public keys, and access is automatically restricted to authorised persons. At the same time, it is more difficult to manipulate or steal information. In addition, only authorised users can make changes, which helps keep data current and correct.
This also translates into improved treatment and care for patients. For instance, doctors can access records without having to jump through administrative hoops.
Additional application scenarios in the healthcare system
However, the advantages of blockchain also extend beyond the scope of patient care. It can guarantee greater security, for instance, in the delivery of prescription medication. Supply chains can be monitored and tracked using ‘single source of truth' software technology. This could benefit the quality of medicines since temperature fluctuations during transport can be recorded, for example.
The technology can also be used to expose falsification – and not just of medicines. The organ donor registry is another frequent target of falsification. Some experts advocate for using blockchain technology in this case to prevent the manipulation of waiting-list entries.
Likewise, research projects can benefit from blockchain technology. This would allow researchers around the world to rely on a consistent and universal database, for instance. Moreover, declarations of consent relating to patient research data can be published on the blockchain.
Moreover, smart contracts, which are automated contracts executed on the blockchain, can help improve healthcare, for example, by paying invoices automatically if specific conditions defined in the contract are fulfilled.
Blockchain in healthcare – is it just a distant dream?
Although blockchain technology offers many advantages in the healthcare sector, much work must be done. If one looks at the topic of ‘digital health’, there are obstacles in every direction.
This is why experts are still debating the issue of privacy protection and the feasibility and costs of introducing modern technologies. Since this involves sensitive information, these topics are of immense importance.
However, the combination of secure access management and blockchain promises better patient care, more excellent data protection, and cost savings thanks to automated processes.