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Modern Healthcare: Will Blockchain Save the Healthcare System?

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Blockchain, in non-technical words, is a network of blocks embedded together. It is a form of decentralized and distributed ledger that can store various kinds of information. Instead of using a central entity to maintain the system, blockchain uses a peer-to-peer network, and everyone on the network gets to enjoy a full copy of all information on that blockchain. Owing to the intricate mechanisms of data storage, data breaching becomes virtually impossible in a blockchain. Even if one 'node' of the network gets affected, the other components in the blockchain remain unscathed, eventually assisting the affected node in its data recovery process. This characteristic makes blockchain a highly secure means of data storage.

Even though blockchain is still not fully understood by scientists, health IT experts have shown great faith in its capabilities. Here are some ways in which blockchain can save the healthcare system:

Protection from cyberattacksSeamless interoperability all EHRs will be interconnectedDramatic cost savingsImproved revenue managementGreater transparency and accuracy in managing patient dataFaster diagnosisBetter resource managementRewards and incentives for patients and providersNew avenues for researchers particularly genetic engineers

Protection from cyberattacks

The most distinct feature of blockchain is its ability to withstand breaching and tampering. Any information that is added to the blockchain becomes embedded in all decentralized 'nodes' of the network and becomes a permanent feature of the blockchain. This complex symmetry makes it extremely hard for potential hackers to break into the PHI (Protected Health Information).

Data breaching is a major problem in US healthcare. According to HIPAA Journal, the average cost of a healthcare data breach is $15 million. In 2018, fines worth $28.7 million were collected from healthcare providers who had failed to meet the requisite protocols of data safety. By completely integrating blockchain technology to American healthcare, not only would the data be safe from different vulnerabilities but also there would be no need to impose any hefty fines on the practices.

Seamless interoperability all EHRs will be interconnected

There is a consensus among the healthcare stakeholders that clinical information should be made easier to share and view. For instance, if a provider is using one EHR vendor, and he refers the patient to a doctor with an altogether different vendor, interoperability allows them to mutually share their clinical data seamlessly. To show their support for this cause, many EHR vendors have already signed National Voluntary Pledge. However, there are plenty of grey areas in the concept of data sharing, and cogent efforts are needed to turn this concept into a practical reality.

Blockchain presents a holistic opportunity to cater to the need for the safe and free transfer of PHI. Blockchain technology has an idiosyncrasy that all its nodes (or computers) have a copy of the same data throughout the entire network. Alongside, any information being wedged into the blockchain gets shared with all participants of the blockchain, virtually in real-time. Another unique feature of blockchain is its unprecedented resistance to data breaching. All these features make blockchain an excellent platform for secure and seamless exchange of medical records among different healthcare stakeholders.

Dramatic Cost Savings

The US government is quite adamant about reducing its costs on healthcare. The reason is pretty straightforward: It spends a generous $3.65 trillion on its healthcare, which makes almost 21% of the total GDP spending. In 2009, the Obama administration announced the ARRA, and in 2010, PPACA was enacted to manage the resources spent on healthcare.

By effectively bringing blockchain to healthcare, massive savings can take place. It is estimated that the complete adoption of healthcare can save the healthcare industry anywhere between $100-$150 billion by 2025. It can also reduce carbon footprints by minimizing the need to keep paper records. Automation due to blockchain would also reduce the need for intermediaries, which are deployed to do various redundant tasks.

Improved revenue management

Blockchain makes it possible to make billing more natural and faster. Owing to its secure network, blockchain will minimize the likelihood of financial discrepancies. Since payers have access to real-time clinical information, the need for submitting claims manually would be nullified. Instead, the insurance companies can reimburse the providers as soon as the treatment takes place. Using its sophisticated back-end algorithms, blockchain would also countercheck any discrepancies or anomalies in payments made by the respective payers. This automated system would also make billing effectively free since no intermediaries would be involved to manually scrub and submit claims.

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Alex Tate is a Health IT writer for various platforms. He provides perceptive, engaging and informative consultancy on industry wide topics. He knows that no single approach is the right one for every practice, and so shall advice according to the (more...)
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