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Healthcare Technology

Blockchain in Healthcare

Blockchain has the potential to transform India. While it is a foundational technology, it has the ability to make healthcare more sustainable for the future.

Healthcare today has been adopting new technology like never before. As a result of this we have many significant developments in recent days. Let’s take for instance the adoption of telemedicine by both patients and care providers alike during the Covid 19 pandemic. It is significant to note how quickly the ecosystem moved ahead and adopted the new standards and today we have multiple consultations on telemedicine.

Similarly, the development of the Covid19 vaccine has been possible partially due to the increased collaboration between the scientific community made possible by digital technologies.

Blockchain has become a game changer in the healthcare industry. It is a foundational technology with capabilities that go way beyond the traditional IT stack. With features like immutability, digital identity, encryption and real time updates, Blockchain has many of the features that would help the industry evolve to the next level. 

Last year Priyank Jani and I wrote a paper on Blockchain where we discussed how it could be implemented in the healthcare industry. Here is the link of the paper. 

But before we go forward let me quickly discuss what is Blockchain. 

Blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography.  Each block contains, typically, a link to a previous block, a timestamp and transaction data. Transactions have to be approved by all users of the Blockchain to be stored and modifying an older block of data is impossible. Only updating of future records is permissible making the system secure (relatively speaking) and therefore reliable. This also means an entire Blockchain can serve as a secure ledger that records transactions, negating the need for multiple disparate trails of information.

We believe Indian healthcare has most to gain from the adoption of Blockchain technology. For starters, Blockchain allows all types of data to be integrated into the chain. This means one can add not just doctor prescriptions and treatment records but also nutrition information, fitness data, and recordings from medical devices (such as for blood pressure and diabetes patients) by patients themselves. Over time the presence of such longitudinal patient data means caregivers can better interpret disease symptoms and prescribe effective treatment that is customized to work for the patient. Currently, doctors rely on data from treating different patients to prescribe medication. The chances of success for such medication are about 50%. In many cases, doctors wait for feedback from patients to change the medication. With the availability of longitudinal patient data, doctors would know in advance what treatments are more likely to suit a patient in line with his/her health history.

If implemented over a large scale, Blockchain could help significantly lower healthcare costs in India. In addition, it can give multiple parties selective access to patient records ensuring data is not compromised. A survey report by IBM outlines the following healthcare areas benefiting from Blockchain: clinical trial records, patient health records, regulatory compliance, medical device data integration, treatment records, billing and claims, asset management (for hospital assets such as beds/ equipment available), and contract management (for hospitals).

I am really looking forward to the virtual Blockchain summit that is taking place on the 9h of December 2020. I plan to discuss with the various global leaders how Blockchain can be incorporated into the healthcare ecosystem. Do register if you are interested in discussing Blockchain and building a consensus in this area. The link for registration is here- Register | BlockChain in HealthCare

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