The healthcare industry has naturally been one of the active areas of exploration as the world scrambles to find applications for cryptocurrency. The risk-averse nature of the medical industry combined with the enormous cost needed to initiate any change in healthcare has been a major barrier to change. As a result, the healthcare industry is renowned for being slow at adopting new technologies.
However, the overwhelming enthusiasm of the blockchain industry is not going to let those barriers stop them. Here are two areas where cryptocurrency and distributed ledger technology can potentially revolutionize the healthcare system.
The problems of centralized healthcare data management
One of the core principles behind cryptocurrency is it enables individual sovereignty. With the unidirectional cryptographic relationship allowed by private/public keys and the peer to peer nature of distributed databases, we no longer have to rely on centralized institutions to facilitate interactions. Traditionally, healthcare records were stored and maintained centrally by the clinic and hospital you visit. This centrality creates massive information silos due to the lack of permeability of data between medical institutions and it is also prone to hacking. For example in 2017 the hacker group The Dark Overlord stole over 600,000 patient records in the U.S. across three healthcare organizations and sold them on the dark web.
What if instead of paternalistic data management, the patient own their healthcare data themselves securely on the blockchain? Empowering individuals with control of their medical history is what startups such as Medibloc and Medicalchain are proposing.
By giving back healthcare records sovereignty back to individuals, not only all your medical interactions will be recorded in one unified and secure platform, patients can decide on who may have access to that information. By creating an economy around patient’s health records, developers can develop applications to utilize these data with consent from patients. Physicians will have access to one single source of truth of your entire life’s medical data. You may decide to sell your medical history directly to researchers without having to worry third parties accessing it without permission.
Blockchain-based health insurance
Another major area cryptocurrency can tackle is providing desperately needed access to capital for people living in low-to-middle income countries (LMIC). In 2014, per capita health spending in low-income countries (LIC) was $120 as compared with $5221 in high-income countries (HIC). Furthermore, there is a minimal projected raise for LICs in the next decades. The two main reasons for this are:
1) Insufficient access to reliable data on the quality of care and management of institutions leading to limited investment confidence.
2) The inefficiencies of cross-border payments and non-competitive intermediaries currently exist in the financing industry.
Universal access to healthcare insurance
The transparency and immutability offered by blockchain can provide a tamper-proof audit trail which was previously impossible. This can minimize fraud and give financial credibility globally to those who are truly honest.
By removing financial institutions as third-party intermediaries, the poorest can bypass the hurdles as a result of a corrupt or unstable centralized institution previously established through no faults of their own.
For example, PwC UK blockchain lab has already performed pilot studies on blockchain implementations in wholesale insurance and acknowledges that the potential is enormous.
Another example is Wanchain, a blockchain protocol solely focusing on building a decentralized financial infrastructure, with the potential to make centralized banks a thing of the past.
There is a reason why there is such an insane amount of enthusiasm behind blockchain and cryptocurrency. Platforms like Medibloc and Medicalchain give the health record data sovereignty back into the hands of individual patients. Meanwhile, cryptocurrency can also provide health financial access to the world’s poorest people. Of course, we are still in the very early days of the exploration. No one knows if the medical industry will be able to adopt blockchain technology with relative speed. Whatever the outcome is, with this much potential and this much money at stake, it is indeed worth a try.
This article by Ron See was originally published at CoinCentral.com
Illustration Photo: As part of the Internet of the Body Project, scientists apply cognitive cloud analytics and machine learning to data from multiple wearable devices that are pre-processed in a "Cognitive Hypervisor". (credits: IBM Research / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0))