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Industry Sector Research: Blockchain and Healthcare
Blockchain and Healthcare

Blockchain technology has become the talk of the world. It has become the most disruptive technologies in the world. Most of the industries today are adopting the blockchain technology to change the way they function. One such industry that is looking to take up blockchain technology is the healthcare industry.

Even though the healthcare industry is one of the slowest-growing industries it will be impossible for us to exaggerate the significance of the healthcare industry. Comparing the present healthcare industry to two decades ago it overall still functions the same way. It is said that it is because of a lack of innovation. What innovation is that it is lagging behind in this healthcare industry.

On the off chance that you investigate somewhat deeper, at that point you will see that this space is overflowing with vertical innovation, be that as it may, it generally lags behind with regards to horizontal innovation.

But a decade ago, the advent of Blockchain technology ushered in a whole new era of innovation. Over the years, the technology has branched out to literally dozens of industry sector from Gaming to AI and yes, even Healthcare.

 

Blockchain and Healthcare 

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These startups alone have raised a whopping $484 million to date. A staggering 80% of this fund was raised by Initial Coin Offering (ICO) projects or as much as $390 million. Indicating, retail investors are the main driving force behind the new wave of Blockchain-based healthcare startups. 

 

Vertical Innovation vs Horizontal Innovation

Vertical innovation is a type of innovation that is done in that particular field. For example, the polio vaccine and highly developed operations methods are vertical innovation.

Horizontal innovation is a type of innovation that can be adopted by everyone. For example, electricity, cloud computing, and the internet that can be adopted by various industries.

We can here say that this industry is lagging behind in the horizontal innovation as most of the hospitals still use paper and files to do their records.

Blockchain — The Next Horizontal Innovation

As we all know blockchain is nothing but a series of unchangeable records that are maintained by a set of computers that are not owned by any single entity. The blockchain technology has gained so much attention is because of its properties like decentralization, immutability, and transparency.

· It is decentralized which means it is not owned by any single entity

· The blockchain is unchangeable which means nobody can change the data inside the chain

· The transparency in the blockchain is nothing but anyone and everyone can track the data if they want to.

Blockchain and Decentralization

So as to comprehend why the idea of decentralization and running a trustless framework is significant, you have to comprehend the relationship that we have had with trust since the beginning of time. Early cavemen learned how important it is to trust each other. It was truly an immeasurably significant issue. A stone-age man without anyone else’s input had zero possibility of enduring. Think about every one of the components in the nature that could have killed them. A man needed to figure out how to live in communities with individuals that they can trust, just to endure.

Right off the bat, we had the barter system, wherein individuals confided in one another to give them a product of significant worth to trade with theirs so as to do exchanges. However, as time went on, our exchange framework turned out to be infinitely more complex. Our population exploded because of improved healthcare in an enormous part and our organizations turned into a lot more complex. Therefore, we moved from trusting in a person to trusting in a unified foundation, similar to a bank. Be that as it may, as time developed, these banks turned out to be increasingly powerful.

With the quantity of duties that these banks were managing a point needed to come where they would fail so severely, that individuals would need to search for an alternative financial system. An unknown person(s) named Satoshi Nakamoto thought of the possibility of Bitcoin. Bitcoin was the world’s first decentralized cryptographic money which was fueled by the blockchain innovation.

Healthcare and Interoperability

Interoperability has become one of the huge problems in the healthcare industry. Improved interoperability in the healthcare industry has been a top priority for providers and patients for a while now. The two main areas that are ineffective interoperability are:

· The trouble of identifying patients

· Information blocking

The Trouble of Identifying Patients

It is pretty surprising that still there is no universally patient identifier. The unique patient identifier can easily solve the problem of mismatched patient records. This problem has led to various problems in the past which increased the probability of patient harm. This issue can be solved by blockchain technology.

Information Blocking

In spite of being regarded an unlawful practice, data blocking has been an issue in the healthcare industry. What is data blocking? In the healthcare industry, information blocking is known as the result of “an unreasonable limitation imposed on the exchange of patient information or electronic health information.” According to the U.S. Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, there are three criteria for distinguishing Information blocking:

· There has been interference

· There has been knowledge

· There is no explanation behind the data to not be accessible.

It’s implied that information blocking practices that involve unreasonable interference and awareness are a huge detriment to proficient healthcare practice. Blocking can happen in light of policies that prevent the sharing of data just as practices that makes sharing very impractical. The purpose behind this is truly straightforward. Clinics would prefer not to miss out on patients and need to make it as troublesome as possible for them to proceed to another medical clinic. In this advanced age, this ought to have been a draconian practice, however different studies and studies say otherwise.

· It was found that data blocking is amazingly widespread and the different moves that have been made to curb it are still extremely ineffective.

· Half of the respondents that have been studied by Adler-Milstein reportedly engaged with health IT organizations by partaking in health blocking. A quarter of these respondents additionally said that medical clinics and health systems are liable for this training.

As indicated by the researchers, information blocking can be checked by one of the following methods:

· Expanding transparency with the goal that every single move that has been made by the members can be accounted for.

· There ought to be a strong financial incentive so the members will want to share information with one another.

· A cooperative connection between health IT companies, hospitals, and HIEs could further check information blocking.

Now we know the interoperability issues in the healthcare industry. Now let’s look at how blockchain is going to help in solving this issue.

Public and Private Block

There are two types of particular blockchain out there which provide a peer-to-peer network with decentralization and immutable framework:

· Public Blockchain

Public Blockchain is the type of ecosystem in which anyone can take part. Bitcoin, Ethereum and many others are public blockchains. These frameworks have an in-built incentive system that gives rewards to the members for taking part completely in the system.

How is it that the healthcare industry is going to benefit from the public blockchain? Firstly, as has been extremely well recorded, the blocks in bitcoin and Ethereum have a capacity issue. Bitcoin has somewhat over 1mb of space per block which is essentially insufficient to run the sort of transactions and store the sort of information that healthcare institutes require. Thinking through the issues which have additionally been pretty well-documented. Bitcoin can scarcely oversee 7–8 exchanges for every second. The block confirmation time is around 10 mins which then just adds to the latency. A huge healthcare institute needs to manage enormous blocks of transactions every day with close to 0 latency.

Public blockchains, particularly the ones that follow the proof-of-work protocol like Bitcoin requires a massive amount of computational capacity to tackle hard puzzles. All things considered, it is extremely unfeasible for these organizations to spend quite a lot of money on consensus mechanisms.

At last, public blockchains are open chains, which in itself is another detriment. Consider it, for what reason should healthcare institute try to attempt to collaborate with one another in a system where anybody can come in and become a part of it. Medical institutes deal with highly-classified and sensitive information, for what reason will they need anyone outside their circles to interface with it? In this way, public chains are impractical for these reasons.

· Private Chains

Private chain blockchains are also known as permissioned blockchain because they are not open like public chains but they are supposed to request permission to be a part of this network. Due to this, there are restrictions to the kind of individuals who can really partake in the consensus. Access for new members could be given by the following:

  • The existing members who are partaking in the ecosystem.
  • A regulated authority.
  • A consortium.

When an entity has joined the ecosystem, they can play a role in system maintenance. The Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric is a case of a permissioned blockchain system implementation and one of the Hyperledger projects facilitated by The Linux Foundation. It has been designed ground up to consider these enterprise requirements.

These private chains have been explicitly designed for big business needs and offer many features like:

  • Fast transactions
  • Privacy
  • High security

Healthcare Blockchain

Imagine a system in healthcare institutes where they don’t own a patient’s personal information. The information completely belongs to the blockchain. The patients are identified through a unique identifier that is their hash ID. Hashing means when you input a string of any length then you get an output of a fixed length. Let’s see how a hash ID will look.

Input

Hash

Healthcare

a64b892ff09a8da719660e7dbec3c8c185b861385c8cdc723935ae9ee7ae344a

This hashing will let the ID be very unique and gives privacy to the users. The blockchain can likewise help in the formation of a patient data sharing marketplace. Along these lines, it will be possible to really boost data sharing between the various institutes to avoid any sort of information blocking.

Nonetheless, imagine a scenario in which despite everything we have some malicious actors who attempt to do data blocking or altering. All things considered, two of the blockchain’s most significant features will step up and handle this circumstance:

· First off, all the blockchain is a transparent system, anyone and everyone who takes part in the blockchain can take a look at how each transaction takes place.

· Secondly, it is anti-tampering. If anyone tries to meddle with the block data then the hash gets change drastically. As blocks in a blockchain are connected to one another through hash pointers, if one block data changes, then it sets up an action wherein the whole chain could freeze up the complete blockchain. Due to this feature, it is impossible to tamper the data in a blockchain.

Healthcare Blockchain Advantages

· The patients can send their data to anyone without the fear of data tampering or any kind of corruption because blockchain is unchangeable and traceable.

· Any data or medical record of a patient that has been added to the blockchain is completely safe and secure.

· The patient can have some authority over how their medicinal information gets utilized and shared by the institutes. Any party which is hoping to get the information about a patient could check with the blockchain to get the required authorization.

· The patient can likewise be incentivized for good conduct by means of a reward component. For example, they can get tokens for following a care plan or for keeping themselves healthy. Likewise, they can be rewarded by tokens for giving their information for clinical trials and research.

· Different medical institutes conduct their own research on different new drugs and medications. All these data can be put in one place with the help of blockchain to create a single global database.

· Insurance fraud is one of the major issues in the healthcare industry. There are many people who submit false information to receive payable benefits. This can be completely avoided and can be solved by the blockchain technology.

Thus, blockchain and healthcare go hand in hand and have many advantages that can improve the system and work more efficiently. As the data is not stored in any centralized system it will keep the system leakage-free and keeps the patient’s data safe and secure. But, until and unless we see a complete implementation of these two together this is all hearsay. According to various research and reports, the blockchain is being adopted by various sectors, and it looks like the future of healthcare is going to be completely decentralized.

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