Will Blockchain Disrupt the Healthcare Industry?

Medical technology is advancing quickly, and yet, where blockchain fits is an open question.

One of the biggest concerns in health care is records. Patient records, their portability, their access, and who has them is on the minds of doctors, patients, and government regulators. Patient records are stored everywhere from the health monitor on a patient’s wrist to their pediatrician’s ancient, unscanned paper records from decades ago. And blockchain offers an intriguing potential solution for healthcare innovation management, a method to create a patient record that allows multiple sources to contribute to one patient’s record, and also tracks who looks at it. The question is whether the healthcare industry will allow blockchain to alter it.

The Problem With Records

Patient record issues are quite literally a matter of life and death. It’s estimated that between 220,000 and 440,000 patients suffer some form of mistake that contributes to their death. That would make medical mistakes the third leading cause of death in America. “Errors of communication,” such as medical records, are a major contribution to those deaths, and worse, this can happen years later.

Doctors have been sounding the alarm about this problem for years, but solutions have been few and far between, and the medical community has been slow to adopt modern technology. A particularly glaring example is the rollout of electronic medical records, also known as EHRs, where, with so many conflicting systems that refuse to talk to each other out there, most doctor’s offices are forced to rely on the one government-approved method to share records over long distances: The fax machine.

Blockchain seems ideal to push medical records into the 21st century, and doctors, hospitals, and insurers are eager to see it happen. But what obstacles are there to overcome?

Paper and plastic records will soon be a thing of the past.

Blockchain And Healthcare

The most basic concern, from an innovation management perspective, is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, better known as HIPAA. HIPAA dictates how patient records are shared, who has access to them, and what systems they can be stored on, and the standards for patient privacy are, by necessity, extremely high. Any blockchain solution will first need to meet HIPAA standards, and will also need to be engineered to be easy for any patient, even those less informed about technology, to access.

Secondly, to be most effective, a number of industries will need to agree on one standard. Personal medical technology is still in its infancy with any number of sensors and apps tracking our heart rate, our diet, and other data. But as the cost comes down, doctors and tech companies alike expect that we’ll be performing more elaborate and detailed tests on ourselves at home. Insurers, private doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, researchers, and others will need to determine whether and how they’ll have access to this data, and any innovation strategy will have to consider how these stakeholders overlap.

And finally, there’s the question of cost. Any blockchain solution will need some form of upgrade that can be applied across all these stakeholders. Who’ll pay for it? And who will pay to maintain the system as time goes on?

That said, the pressure for a better, safer solution is immense, and blockchain has the potential to solve any number of problems. It’s only a matter of time before innovation strategies will need to consider medical blockchain technology, and where it might take the industry. To learn more about medical blockchain, and the need for innovation in healthcare, join our newsletter.

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