Is Blockchain Going to Be the Next Big Thing in Medicine?

While you may have heard the word blockchain in the context of cryptocurrencies, there is more to this financial technology than just facilitating investments. While cryptocurrency remains the buzzword of the season, the blockchain technology is all set to disrupt some other industries as well, mainly medicine. Surprising, right? What does a technology that involves people paying money across countries have to do with saving lives? Turns out, it has a lot to do with the way hospitals maintain research data and use them to further medicine.
All hospitals have a computer at the front desk already. What will blockchain add?
Let us think about it this way. Hospitals are places that have seen the most and the least innovation over the decades. Most, sure. Anybody can write pages about how modern medicine has increased life expectancy. But why least? A hospital is full of doctors who are arguably one of the most educated and smartest members of the society. But hospitals have seen very little innovation in terms of data handling. Most patient information is still stored manually and the most technological advancement you can see in hospitals is the use of Excel sheets. But as they say, data is everything. Imagine how much more advancements could be possible if all the patient data and research records were kept in a consolidated way with complete access granted to all doctors, hospitals and patients.
What is wrong with the way things are being done right now?
The sad status quo is that there is still no universally recognized patient identifier. When patients suffering from critical illnesses are transferred elsewhere, a significant amount of time is lost in transferring his records. Even emails are not safe from a total system crash and loss of information. Lives are put at risk just because there was some error or delay in data transfer which took the treatment in an entirely different direction from where it should have headed. This is exactly the gap blockchain technology seeks to fill. Just think about the number of lives that could be saved from fatal diseases just by avoiding the time lag in transfer of patient information from one doctor to another. This number itself makes the usage of blockchain technology seem worth it.
This error seems to be manageable with faster processes, why make an effort for blockchain?
While these were just process errors, there is a much darker side to the story, which is frankly unethical. The process called “information blocking” is rampant in the medical industry today because data is private to every hospital.
That hospitals are as much a money-making institution today as any other business house, is no secret. Hospitals do not want their profitable patients to transfer elsewhere even if that was the best option for their recovery. To keep the cash flowing in, they try to prevent such transfers in all possible ways including not giving out complete details of the patient even though it was possible to reveal. It is exactly at this point where the use of blockchain technology would help reinforce transparency. All details of the patient would be stored in a public chain where it could be accessible by all interested parties, and thus save the patient from wrong or delayed treatment due to withheld information.
It is quite clear that using blockchain technology will be the best option for the patient’s health and safety; and the sustainability of the healthcare industry.

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