Blockchain in Healthcare for a More Inclusive Health System

by | Aug 1, 2022 | Blog

Blockchain in healthcare isn’t something that comes to most people’s minds, as blockchain technologies are mostly thought of from the perspective of decentralized finances and cryptocurrencies. However, with proper use, blockchain could revolutionize the healthcare industry.

Blockchain is a type of software that allows its users to carry out transactions and sign smart contracts without the need for third-party intermediaries or centralized administrators. While this is indeed having a huge impact in the world of finances, it is also radically changing countless other industries.

The healthcare industry, in particular, can benefit from these technologies, as they can introduce innovative ways to record, share and monetize information, as well as unique incentives for both physicians and patients to contribute to improving healthcare services.

Blockchain Use Cases in Healthcare

Although blockchain isn’t in and of itself a technology created for providing healthcare services, its ability to make organizations and processes more efficient can make for incredible advancements in this field.

Today, companies, service providers, physicians, and patients around the world are benefitting from blockchain technology in healthcare.

Efficient Transactions

One of the clearest advantages of blockchain in healthcare is the higher efficiency of transactions, which can improve healthcare services in numerous ways while reducing their overall costs.

In the field of healthcare, blockchain transactions don’t just mean potentially faster, easier, and less costly payment systems but also higher flexibility for patients to access services with friendlier payment systems.

With smart contracts, there would be a possibility to have automated service-based payments, credits with lower interest rates thanks to the lack of intermediation, and overall better service prices, as the blockchain would allow for high cuts in administrative costs.

Flexible Contract Management

Contract management in the healthcare industry can be exceptionally complex, deterring many patients from accessing proper healthcare services from the risk of entering inflexible contracts with unfavorable conditions.

Smart contracts allow for exceptional flexibility in transactions and financial instruments, which can ultimately lead to flexible payment methods that go beyond the high-interest credits or pre-paid health insurance that patients are usually limited to, particularly in private healthcare systems.

Additionally, these types of contracts can streamline negotiation processes by allowing for unprecedented levels of customization with automation of contract fulfillment. 

Likewise, smart-contract-based instruments would potentially allow for much more flexible options when it comes to healthcare systems that are financed through mixed sources between private and public.

Patient Data Security

Patient data is a problem that doesn’t come across most people’s minds when it comes to healthcare. However, it is one of the most important issues that healthcare providers face since thorough information is essential for a good healthcare service, but organizations and physicians need to handle it with extreme care.

Improper use of healthcare data can lead to problems related to asymmetries of information and, in particular, problems of adverse selection. This means that companies can use the information to adversely exclude or overcharge patients based on breaches of their privacy.

The problem is that, while healthcare and insurance companies can misuse this information, they also need it to provide the best possible service. Blockchain can solve this problem by providing decentralized channels for information exchange, safeguarding the patient’s privacy while allowing providers to use that information only for the service.

Decentralized channels of information diffusion can also be used to create incentives for physicians to share data for research purposes while also allowing the patients from which that data was taken to benefit.

Blockchain has already been used in various instances as a tool for data sharing and diffusion to great effect; although there still needs to be more research about the effects of sharing and selling data through these means, more healthcare organizations are considering its application.

Organizational Efficiency

One of the main variables behind the high costs of healthcare services is administrative costs. On top of requiring highly trained personnel and expensive gear to provide the best possible service to patients, hospitals and healthcare entities also require extensive organization.

Administrative costs in healthcare come largely from bureaucratic processes, where functionaries have to manage and organize large amounts of information about patients, payments, and much more, as well as the agendas of busy physicians who have to distribute their time to tend to countless patients with urgent needs.

This amount of highly specialized bureaucracy is naturally costly, but these costs can be drastically reduced using blockchain technology. As it was mentioned before, automating certain transactions can contribute to a bureaucratic reduction.

For medical procedures to be approved and transactions to be made, whether it’s in private or publicly funded systems, there are processes that must go through multiple levels within an organization, and multiple checks for approval. Coupled with AI technologies, blockchain could automatize many of these processes and make them far more efficient and secure. 

Furthermore, as it has been done in many DAOs, blockchain could be used in healthcare organizations to provide automated incentives for physicians and functionaries based on their productivity, as well as tracking their use or resources based on patient information to assess and improve their overall efficiency.

Towards a Future of Blockchain in Healthcare

Today, blockchain is seen by many as nothing more than the software infrastructure that supports cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. Although that was its original purpose, the technology is continually evolving and showing us its endless potential.

Not only can blockchain in healthcare make financial transactions more efficient and thus increase the efficiency of nearly every large organization, but it can also serve to provide technological infrastructures for organizations to operate with less centralization and bureaucracy.

The benefits of blockchain in healthcare are big and numerous. Not only does blockchain help save private and public money in the healthcare system (which is an incredible advantage by itself); it is also a way to save lives by virtue of having more efficient and effective organizations.

Likewise, with the incentives that blockchain in healthcare create to exchange information without compromising the privacy of patients, medical science could see drastic advancements when these technologies are massively adopted and made a central part of the healthcare system.

The future innovations that can come out of employing blockchain in the healthcare industry remain to be seen, but it is sure that the implementation of these technologies will revolutionize the healthcare system on a global scale, improving everyone’s possibilities to access affordable healthcare. 

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