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If you’ve been keeping up with banking, cryptocurrency, health tech, or major investments, then you may have heard of “blockchains.” But what is a blockchain, and how is it making its way into the healthcare industry? Before diving into this subject, we must understand what a blockchain is and how it affects us.
For starters, blockchain is a technology that allows digital information to be distributed. It consists of “blocks”—pieces of digital information shared between users—that are stored in a public database, which is known as the “chain.” Each chain contains three parts:
- The first part of the blockchain stores information about transactions. For example, whenever users shop online, the item they purchased, along with the date, time, and the amount spent, is all saved into the company’s database.
- The second piece of information that blockchains store are transactions. So, rather than saving your name and all of your personal information with it, the blocks only store information regarding the transaction. This is also known as the “digital signature”—similar to a username.
- The third thing blocks store is information that can help distinguish them from other blocks. What does that mean? Like a person’s first name, blocks save online information that stores unique codes. These codes are called “hashes,” and they are used to identify blockchains.
So, how can blockchain find its way into the healthcare industry, and how can it improve our experience? Well, there are three ways it can do so:
The blockchain can help improve diagnosis.
Within the American healthcare system, incorrect or late diagnoses happen far too often. That’s because there are a number of healthcare professionals that still depend on outdated tools when it comes to keeping their patients’ information intact and safe, especially when it comes to keeping consistent records across different healthcare systems. The problem, however, is that if doctors continue to use outdated technology, then they won’t be able to diagnose their patients in a timely manner. In some cases, this can mean the difference between life and death, since diagnosing symptoms can be a time-consuming process.
If blockchains are present, however, then the power shifts from the doctors to the patients. Rather than physicians sorting through countless files, the patient will be responsible for their own records thanks to this technological integration. By putting the power back into the patients’ hands, their healthcare data will remain consistent and patient care quality will improve. Even during the beginning stages of the blockchain integration, patients should see a major difference in their treatment and diagnosis. That’s because they’ll have control over their own information and have the ability to access it whenever they need to, which can help save lives in the long run.
How can blockchain technology revolutionize healthcare within the United States? Well, aside from being a popular topic throughout the healthcare industry thanks to its transparency and countless features, blockchain technology can give patients access to a wider selection of healthcare providers.
It can also help patients better understand their benefits (which is important) and determine the exact cost of treatment. As a result, patients will know how much their treatment will cost, and the amount of paperwork associated with their health insurance billing and payment planning will be reduced. This not only improves the patient’s experience, but it improves the doctor’s as well, which makes it desirable for physicians.
Blockchain technology also presents hospitals with new possibilities, starting with their data exchange and online security. Most hospitals, for instance, save their patients’ information on a cloud. This makes it easier for both doctors and patients to access important documents. While this might sound like a simple feature, it isn’t. That’s because when patients go to a new healthcare provider, their networks are likely to change, which means information can easily be lost. With blockchain technology, however, patients will no longer need to worry about that since the records stored in the cloud can be easily retrieved and transferred between different providers.
Blockchain Technology Increases Ability to Adapt
Blockchains can be used to help reduce the cost of admin claims by eliminating third-party companies. This can be done by using smart contracts to avoid intermediaries.
Blockchains can also be used to track things like billing information and prescriptions. With prescriptions policies becoming more regulated by pharmacists, it’s important for patients to keep records of the medicine they’ve been prescribed. That said, blockchain can help patients in this area is by providing them with documentation of their medical history. This will not only show the number of doctor visits, but it will also show prescription history as well, making it easy to track all transactions.
Blockchain also keeps patients digital information safe as well. By using private keys, for instance, patients are able to confirm their identity within different healthcare organizations. Patients who don’t have private keys, however, aren’t able to access the data files. This helps protect the information belonging to the patient, and prevents it from getting into the wrong hands.
It’s also worth mentioning that in today’s world, it’s not uncommon for doctors and patients to see duplicate records, which can make things confusing if the information contradicts itself. On the bright side, if duplicate information is a problem for you, it can help doctors see if you’ve been misdiagnosed in the past and prepare a medical treatment plan that might work this time.
The transformative potential of this technology is starting to change the healthcare landscape. It’s for these reasons that Bradley University has listed blockchain technology as one of the key emerging technologies in patient-centered care. In the end, as technology evolves, so with the healthcare industry. This will help improve patient care, online security, communication, and so much more as long as technology continues to transform healthcare.