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Can Blockchain Revolutionize Healthcare?

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When many people hear the phrase “blockchain technology”, they immediately think of cryptocurrencies. However, blockchain is much more than cryptocurrencies. At its core, blockchain technology is a chain of records that store data and information. It is a tamper-proof and decentralized digital ledger, which provides full control to the user and eliminates governmental or third-party dominance. 

The global expenditure on blockchain solutions is anticipated to reach US$11.7 billion this year, and the number of individuals working in the blockchain sector has increased 76% as of June 2022. By 2024, it is anticipated that the worldwide blockchain technology market would generate US$20 billion in revenue. When blockchain technology is implemented correctly, it can solve problems in several sectors—with applications in the automotive, financial services, voting, and healthcare industries.

The Promise of Blockchain for Healthcare

Healthcare professionals and institutions are already capitalizing on blockchain technology by using early solutions to reduce costs, increasing the availability of authentic information, streamlining medical records, and providing secure and fast access to data. 

There are numerous applications of using blockchain in healthcare:

  • Storage and Data Accessibility – Medical professionals can collaborate effectively, improving the opportunities and experiences for patients by using blockchain technology to access, store, and share data securely.
  • Analysis and Data Collection – Using a data-driven, scalable, and patient-centric blockchain-based system will prove helpful in collecting sensitive data to train machine learning software. 
  • Health Supply Chain Management – The blockchain provides practical solutions to streamline supply chain operations through less expensive, reliable, authentic, and easier methods.
  • Drug Tracking – Blockchain technology provides a reliable way to ensure drug validity by providing the ability to trace every medicine back to its source.
  • Remote Monitoring – Once uploaded to the blockchain, electronic medical records can be viewed and shared instantly and securely throughout the world. 

Protecting Sensitive Data

Hospital cyber security breaches hit an all-time high in 2021, with 45 million individuals affected by healthcare cyber attacks. The implications of these attacks can have a variety of consequences, ranging from the shutdown of hospital operations, diversion of non-emergency patients, a loss of confidentiality, exposure of patient data and information, and infrastructure damage.

Kali Durgampudi, the chief technology officer of healthcare payments company Zelis, believes that blockchain implementation is vital for protecting patients’ sensitive data from cyber criminals. He says that  because hackers cannot modify or copy the data, “blockchain technology vastly reduces security risks, giving hospital and healthcare IT organizations a much stronger line of defense against cyber criminals.”

Blockchain technology has the potential to alleviate many of these concerns. Any time the information is changed or shared, a new block is created to document the transaction. Strung together, these blocks create an impenetrable chain. Since the information cannot be modified or copied, blockchain technology vastly reduces security risks.

Challenges for Blockchain in Healthcare

Like most advances, there are limits to the promise of blockchain technology. Currently, blockchain’s scalability is low, with transaction speeds not up to the standard of being reliable for massive amounts of immediate transactions. Blockchain ecosystems can also require high energy consumption, making it expensive to manage over large amounts of data and networks. Finally, it is important to note that healthcare often lags behind other industries in adopting new and cutting-edge technologies. Regulations and infrastructure issues tend to prevent fast-paced growth in medical devices, newer drug development platforms, and adopting scalable technologies.

Blockchain Solutions for the Future

Get practical guidance for how to design a blockchain solution with the IEEE five-course program, A Step-by-Step Approach to Designing Blockchain Solutions. Developed by experts, this course program recaps the basics of the technology, the expected benefits of a blockchain solution, how a solution would benefit a prospect company, and more.

Contact an IEEE Account Specialist to learn more about how this program can benefit your organization.

Interested in getting access for yourself? Visit the IEEE Learning Network (ILN) today!

Resources

Durgampudi, Kali. (18 July 2022). The Potential of Blockchain Technology To Address Healthcare’s Biggest Challenges. Forbes.

Encila, Jet. (15 August 2022). Blockchain Industry Workforce Grows 80% This Year, Study Shows. Bitcoinist.

Garg, Amit & Shuang, Sharon. (16 August 2022). Blockchain & Healthcare- Where Are We? DateDrivenInvestor.

Hoffmann, Sofia. (9 August 2022). What Benefits Blockchain can Bring to Healthcare. HealthTECH Zone.

Linken, Scott. (12 August 2022). Making sense of bitcoin, cryptocurrency and blockchain. PWC.

Quarmby, Brian. (22 July 2022). Blockchain’s use in healthcare ‘essential’ to protect sensitive data: Zelis CTO. Cointelegraph. 

Siwicki, Bill. (20 July 2022). Debunking some of healthcare’s biggest blockchain myths. HealthcareITNews. 

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