Meanwhile, global annual health spending surpassed $7 trillion dollars in 2015.
By 2020, global annual health spending is expected to have ballooned to over $8.734 trillion.
You’ve probably heard of the disruptions blockchain technology is making in the fin-tech industry — they’re all over the news.
But there is unlikely to be a sector that faces greater disruption by blockchain technology than the healthcare industry.
It goes without saying that the healthcare industry represents a significant portion of the economy. In fact, a report by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reveals that healthcare spending is expected to cover almost 20% of the US national economy by the year 2025.
Meanwhile, the sector is being put under increasing pressure to regulate costs, whilst still being expected to provide a high standard of care to patients.
Most hospitals today continue to use legacy systems to track their patients’ data — and this is halting connected healthcare.
Even now in 2018, the vast majority of patient data is stored locally. This fragments the data and makes it difficult for healthcare professionals to share important information between one another.
It doesn’t help that each hospital has its own way of storing its data. For instance, a 2017 report by MIT Technology Review revealed that there are 26 different EMR systems used across hospitals and providers in Boston alone — each representing data differently.
The result? A huge lack of transparency between medical institutions.
As well as this lack of transparency being both inefficient and costly, the issue of patient records being distributed across so many different providers can sometimes stifle the information flow so much that it can even cost a patient’s life.
Behind cancer and heart disease, medical error is the third leading cause of death in the US.
A Blockchain Powered Clinical Health Information Exchange
Blockchain technology has the potential to provide a brand new model for health information exchanges (HIE) by making electronic medical records (EMR) more efficient and cryptographically secure.
Blockchain platforms have the ability to support the entire lifecycle of a patient’s electronic medical record.
For one, this eliminates redundant administrative units, hence drastically reducing the friction and costs of current intermediaries used for health information exchange.
But even more importantly, connecting these fragmented systems will allow us to generate better insights and better assess the value of care being provided to patients.
“One of the major challenges in the healthcare industry today is how we can transmit patient data across geographies, without compromising privacy and security.” — Blockchain: A Healthcare Industry View, Capgemini
MedRec is one platform that is intended to improve electronic medical records.
It allows patients’ records to be accessed by healthcare providers at any time they are required, essentially giving patients and providers immediate access to all their healthcare information across all the providers they have ever seen.
Just imagine how valuable it would be to have a full history of your health available for your doctor to access whenever you have an issue.
It will also allow patients the opportunity to grant anonymous access of their personal medical records to researchers.
This could make medical breakthroughs more successful than ever before.
Improved Drug Supply Chain Integrity and Development
Research and development of new drugs is both costly and high-risk. It is one of the main reasons behind high drug prices.
In the US, it takes up 20% of total pharmaceutical revenue. In 2015, this was equivalent to $59 billion. The success rate of developing a new drug is approximately 4.1%.
The blockchain could facilitate new drug development and lower these costs by making patient results more widely accessible (with permission from the patients themselves).
In addition, the implications caused by counterfeit drugs currently costs pharmaceutical companies an estimated $200 billion annual loss.
Blockchain technology could drastically reduce this figure by being used to introduce anti-tampering capabilities into the drug manufacturing phase to ensure pharmaceuticals are genuine.
Improved Clinical Trial Records & Medical Research
Blockchain technology can introduce additional accountability and transparency to the clinical trial reporting process.
Currently, clinical trials systems are disparate and disconnected.
Healthcare data is extremely valuable, which means that many institutions are reluctant to share it with others.
However, this lack of collaboration between institutions makes it extremely difficult to process all of the generated data and severely halts progress.
By centralizing the results of clinical trials and storing them on an immutable public ledger, valuable research data could become immediately searchable and accessible, leading to a quicker rate of innovation.
Improved Billing Management
As a result of either excessive billing, or billing for non-performed services, an estimated 5–10% of healthcare costs are fraudulent.
In the United States alone, Medicare fraud caused around $30 million in losses in 2016.
In addition to reducing the level of fraud, automated billing would reduce admin costs by eliminating the need for intermediaries, ultimately making the process more efficient.
A Healthcare Internet of Things
By 2020, the global IoT market is expected to be worth approximately $457 billion — and it’s set to transform the medical industry.
Some examples of IoT-enabled medical equipment include:
- Monitoring patient care — By providing their patients with wearable sensors to take home, doctors will have the ability to remotely track and respond to their health status in real-time and respond accordingly if necessary.
- Predictive maintenance — Doctors can ensure that vital medical devices are available when patients need them most by using predictive maintenance to fix problems before they occur.
- Monitoring equipment usage — Healthcare professionals can enhance the well-being of their patients by tracking equipment usage. For example, they can track hospital bed usage, monitor room temperature of wards, and ensure hand-washing stations are always ready for use.
The Future of Blockchain in the Healthcare Industry
By now, most healthcare organizations around the world have recognized that blockchain has the ability to greatly reduce the time, cost, and risks associated with the industry.
According to analysis done by BIS Research, the global blockchain in the healthcare market is estimated to amount to a massive $5.61 billion by 2025.
As these applications of blockchain technology in the healthcare industry move ever-closer to commercialization, it is likely that the number of potential applications will only increase in the future.