It seems that not a day can go by without some major news story about bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. While the world speculates on their value, technology professionals and experts seem more intrigued by the technology underlying these cryptocurrencies – the blockchain.
Blockchain technology is a distributed public ledger system that helps keep a variety of transactions secure and publicly available. It’s found in applications used for reducing errors for equity swaps, and helping people verify claims to land in developing countries. Here’s how this fascinating technology could redefine healthcare and medicine forever:
Storing Medical Records
Perhaps the most convenient use of blockchain technology for medical purposes is to store and distribute Electronic Medical Records. EMRs have been siloed in fragmented platforms that have different rules and structures. Gaining access to these records is essential, but is also complex and expensive. Frequent hacks of medical records in the past few years have also highlighted how vulnerable this data is.
The government’s MedRec paper explores how the blockchain can be used to decentralize storage of data and make it cheaper to maintain, easier to access, and more secure. This decentralized record can only be accessed by authorised medical institutions, such as treatment centers like Clear Sky Recovery or their patients and insurers.
Using the Internet of Things and smart wearable technology, patients can already monitor their health. Vital statistics such as heart rate and insulin levels can be measured and stored on the blockchain so that medical professionals and nearby hospitals can be instantly alerted if a patient’s health deteriorates. Patients can also help with medical research by updating their health data on the network.
It’s not certain that people will accept bitcoin as a legitimate payment service in the future, but experts argue that the technology could still upend how payments are made in the field. By reducing the amount of time, paperwork, and effort that goes into accepting payments from patients and making health insurance claims, the technology could reduce the fees of transactions and encroach on legacy systems operated by the likes of Mastercard and Visa.
The means-tested Medicaid program relies on patients updating their data and financial situation regularly. A peer-to-peer network like the blockchain could help individual citizens create a health profile. This profile is automatically updated with all the latest financial and health data. The network could also ensure the Medicaid program is not being abused and the money and benefits are being efficiently directed to eligible citizens. The blockchain also makes enrollment and reapplications to the program easier and faster.
These are some of the ways blockchain technology could improve our healthcare system in the near future.