Like other technologies, blockchain’s application has been accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic and healthcare has benefitted from it
In many countries, a big part of their gross domestic product (GDP) is spent on healthcare. Hospital costs continue to increase, along with inefficiencies and health data breaches continue to be a bane.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the world witnessed how technology and digitalisation have been accelerated and some industries disrupted with the advent of new innovations.
Blockchain technology is one of them and inefficiencies and data breaches have become a thing of the past for healthcare. Blockchain has multicapabilities from handling epidemics to providing secure encryption of patient information.
How blockchain helps
The term ‘Blockchain’ is about a shared record that cannot be changed pertaining to a chain of transactions, each consisting of one block, with the blocks being clustered together by cryptographic keys called “hashes”.
These keys or signatures are stored in shared ledgers, accompanied by nodes or processes that connect them. Each node has a copy of the whole chain, being constantly updated and synchronised.
The advantages of blockchain technology, include its tamper-resistant nature, the digital ledgers are decentralised, and the immutability of a published transaction subsequently in the user community that shares the ledger. This technology is also known as digital ledger technology (DLT).
Application of blockchain
1) Corporate Governance – Using blockchain for smart contracts and verifiable transactions can make business accounting more transparent.
2) Manufacturing – this is part of sustainable development goals
(SDGs) of improving and achieving innovation highly technology-driven processes. Blockchain can eliminate security vulnerabilities, protect intellectual properties from theft and streamline project management helping 3D and the manufacturing sectors to grow.
3) Energy Management – blockchain can minimize or even eliminate the need for intermidiaries like resellers. The technology can also enable relevant companies to provide access to renewable energy.
4) Education – blockchain can be used to simplify administrative tasks, decentralise learning materials to make them more accessible, create a network for parents to share their experiences and storage of education data.
5) Food & Beverage – blockchain can help manufacturers and distributors avoid highly sensitive issues like halal and meat mix ups, E. Coli, and several mishaps. The technology can help monitor the food supply chain and the traceability aspect is paramount and invaluable considering the previous mishaps of mislabelling meat to the chagrin of society.
According to Delloitte, “blockchain technology has the potential to transform healthcare, placing the patient at the center of the healthcare ecosystem and increasing the security, privacy and interoperability of health data”.
Blockchain benefits in healthcare
Tracking the virus and outbreaks
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic globally, various methodologies were thought of to help contain the scourge of the pandemic. Blockchain enables real time virus reporting and tracing disease patterns that pinpoint its origin and areas of transmissions
Patient care is more efficient
Blockchain capability can create a single system to be stored and regularly updated while health records enable for secure and fast retrieval by authorised users. The bane of miscommunication between different healthcare professionals involved in caring for an individual patient, can be prevented. More rapid diagnosis and intervention and care can be customised for each patient.
Easy transfer of patients between providers
The information shared on blockchain could enable individual patients to easily share their health data with other providers or organisations, through a private key that can be shared. Interoperability and collaboration of health information technology (HIT) are possible between the different users.
Electronic health records can be interoperable
Blockchain has the capacity to provide one transaction level where organisations can transmit and share data through a system that is secured by storing a specific set of standardised data on the chain, with encrypted links to information stored seperately using images.
Seamless connectivity is made possible using side or child chains of smart contracts and uniform authorisation protocols. Side or child chains are further developments to enhance blockchains speed and capability.
The secure features offered by blockchain can help protect health information more efficiently. Each patient has a public identifier or key and a private key, which can be unlocked only as and for an assigned period.
mHealth and remote treatment and monitoring
mHealth or mobile health enables electronic medical records (EMRs) to be kept secure in a blockchain network and the data can be rapidly transmitted to medical personnel, and the patient
can do self-monitoring and be remotely treated.
Traceability of medical supplies
Blockchain enables traceability and transparency of pharmaceutical supplies. It can provide as part of UN’s SGDs monitoring of the labour costs so no forced or child labour is used and carbon footprint involved in the manufacturing of these supplies.
Health insurance claims
Because of blockchain’s immutability, it can present real time medical occurances without the opportunity of data being changed later for fraudulent purposes.
‘Fort Knox’ for genomics
Genomic data theft from using DNA sequencing has been an endless malady without end until blockchain came into the picture and put an end to it. Scientists can now buy online genomic data to do research. Selling can be done safely and without intermediaries.
ESG Vision’s aspiration
Blockchain technology like other technologies has been accelerated in its application during the pandemic and healthcare has very much benefitted
from it. There are certain hiccups and teething problems in any innovation or technology like interoperability and privacy issues but suffice to say, the ongoing work-in-progress solution is hoped to provide further endorsement on the efficaciousness of the technology during these adverse times. — The Health
Zulkifli Ahmad is the founder of ESG Vision, a think tank advocating ideas on ESG and sustainability.