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Blockchain in Healthcare

Author-  IC Ramalatha Marimuthu, IEEE Senior Member

Blockchain is still an emerging field in India. Though at first it was introduced as an application in finance, it has now expanded into areas where we need secured transactions of data like the distributed ledger and other non-financial applications. As the healthcare industry transitions to a more patient-driven care delivery model, a nation like India with a population of 1.3+ billion, needs a healthcare system where the health data of each citizen can be safely stored and readily accessed. Here, technologies like blockchain can drive transformational change that includes affordable treatment and superior healthcare services using big data. 

Markets and Markets, reports that the global market for blockchain in healthcare is growing at a CAGR of 72.8% and is projected to reach USD 829 million by 2023. Likewise, India is leading in the adoption of digital health technology with 76% of healthcare professionals in the country already using digital health records (DHRs) in their practice, according to a 15-country Future Health Index (FHI) 2019 report by Royal Philips, a global leader in health technology.

Given Blockchain is a public ledger made up of a sequence of blocks, which holds a full history of transaction records that occurred in the past within the network – activities in any organization can be improved using blockchain technology. In healthcare, a Blockchain based record management system can enable companies to simplify claim processing, secure medical records, monitor the pharma supply chain, and collaborate with network stakeholders. 

There are numerous applications of blockchain in healthcare: 

a) Electronic Medical Record Maintenance: There are two terms – Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Electronic Health Records (EHR). An EMR is a record of the patient’s current ailment or condition and the treatment recorded during one visit while HER focuses on the complete medical and treatment history of the patients – sometimes going beyond standard clinical data and inclusive of a broader view on a patient’s care. Blockchains are most suitable to support the management of EHR.  The decentralization feature of the blockchain helps in sharing the data with proper authorization and permission for access control. 

b) Remote Patient Monitoring: Blockchain based algorithms can support direct enrolments of patients and doctors in a healthcare centre thereby improving accurate and fast service in remote patient monitoring. Monitoring the patients in a remote place has become a new normal in the current situation of the pandemic and this can be extended to alert the authorities in case of emergency. 

c) Financial transactions like insurance claims, registration fee payment, etc.: Blockchain can help improve the service time of the healthcare insurance since the entire medical history of the patient can be made to be available in one place thus reducing the settlement time. The transparency in contract execution and management will increase the trust of the users and bring in automatic and near real-time settlement for claims. In addition, continuous auditing will be possible, making all the stakeholders like healthcare providers, drug manufacturers, and insurance companies accountable for their actions.  

d) Organizational activities like reservation, movement of patients inside the hospital for various treatments and diagnosis: Patient management systems in hospitals become easier and transparent using blockchain technology. Estonia, though a small country has started using blockchain technology to secure healthcare data and process transactions from 2012 onwards and now 99% of all records are digital. This provides easy access to the patient in need of emergency care to the hospitals nearby and mapping the availability of expertise and infrastructure provides near to no delay in providing healthcare to the patient on the basis of the emergency. Blockchain’s features help to keep the integrity of the records thus providing accurate data to even a new medical expert attending on the patient thus supporting the seamless transition to the new environment with the same reliable healthcare.

e) Pharmaceutical supply chain related to hospitals: This enables the streamlined visibility of movement and stakeholders with improved traceability of the medicines and optimized availability of the drugs to the patients on a need basis. It also improves the stock management system thus facilitating a well-balanced supply-demand system with an optimized flow of goods. The reduction in time, cost and effort in reaching the drugs to the hospitals and patients might be a way to reduce mortality rates. Tracing the movement of goods dynamically will reduce frauds and risks.  The second big usage of blockchain in this pharma industry is that it can enhance the clinical trial process by systematic tracking of information about every step of the trial process.

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly fast-tracked the adoption of digital solutions and advanced technology tools across sectors, especially in healthcare. The industry has largely realized that digital technologies must be an essential part of everyday processes Therefore, a robust plan for a sustainable future is the need of the hour. While healthcare is a major concern today, it presents a huge opportunity to fast-track technology adoption in India. 

Shrey Kapoor is a Tech-Enthusiast, Harvard certified Cyber Security and Cyber Forensics Expert. He Founder, which is one of the India's Top Tech News Website. Even Forbes and many other renowned publishers took his articles reference. Shrey is a Technology analyst, strategic thinker and creative writer who is passionate to deliver the best, latest possible Tech-News to his followers and subscribers. He completed his masters in Artificial Intelligence & Robotics, certified in IPR, T.Q.M. & ISO 9001:2008 In Quality Management Systems.

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