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  Technology   In Other news  29 Aug 2018  Unravelling the prospects of blockchain in the healthcare ecosystem

Unravelling the prospects of blockchain in the healthcare ecosystem

THE ASIAN AGE
Published : Aug 29, 2018, 9:48 pm IST
Updated : Aug 29, 2018, 9:48 pm IST

Blockchain offers a unique opportunity to the healthcare industry to unlock possibilities and diminish complexities in the ecosystem.

A Blockchain network is akin to laying rails between two cities, once the infrastructure is established multiple business processes and use cases can be enabled on the network amplifying the benefit to all participants. (Representational Image)
 A Blockchain network is akin to laying rails between two cities, once the infrastructure is established multiple business processes and use cases can be enabled on the network amplifying the benefit to all participants. (Representational Image)

The healthcare industry is no longer supply driven; it is now steadily transforming into a demand-is driven consumer model. An ever-changing patient needs, demographics and regulation mandates have made it imperative for healthcare players to become agiler and adapt faster to newer technologies, in order to serve patients more effectively. The blockchain is one such promising technology that has recently emerged, and it is set to deliver great value to the industry.

Soon after Bitcoins came into being, Blockchain was recognized as the technology of the future due to its immense potential and vast scope of applications across industries. Every vertical, be it BFSI, life sciences, retail or telecom is now working towards simplifying and enhancing its business processes by implementing Blockchain. Organisations are now deriving immense value out of Blockchain as it is leading a shift from the Internet of Information to the Internet of value.

 

The blockchain is fundamentally a new way of bringing together disjointed systems to create a trust-based validation fabric for the economy. It is a distributed ledger or database which can exist on multiple systems simultaneously. Each Blockchain contains information that is time-stamped and placed in a chronological way within a chain. Each of these blocks contains specific sets of data and in the case of the healthcare industry, this can be patient data, claims data, provider data or wellness data. This data, also known as assets, can be easily transferred over the Blockchain network for participants to access and consume.

At present, healthcare information is stored in an industry player specific centralized repository. However, in the Blockchain, information can be decentralized, distributed and accessible to patients, and/or other authorised stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem. In short, a single market player no longer owns the data. Blockchain makes it possible for a single framework to be built on complex engineering systems that are spread across multiple frameworks.

 

The shift from fragmented to complete patient data

Blockchain has the potential to address numerous challenges faced by the healthcare industry such as enabling on-time access to complete patient health information. Blockchain anchors this information by digitizing patient identity and related information, and by distributing it across a ledger. This data can be further updated in real-time by authorised personnel across the networks on which it is distributed.

A key challenge related to patient data is that it is fragmented. Information about a patient is usually restricted to the place of treatment. Another physician at another healthcare facility does not get easy access to the previous records of the same patient. Additionally, patient-generated data, which stems from the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable devices, remains in another silo, making it difficult for physicians to provide the right care to patients. Blockchain provides decentralised replicated storage and sharing, thus unravelling the potential to collect patient data from different sources and make it available to all authorised personnel. 

 

Improving data management with enhanced data accuracy

Provider data directory is a classic example where the industry ends up with less than 50 per cent compliance and reduced subscriber/patient satisfaction even after spending millions annually. Provider data directory is a comprehensive database with information about physicians, facilities, ancillary services etc. that is essential for payors to perform core functions and members/patients to find the right providers. Providers accept various health plans requiring different payors to maintain the same data. According to a recent study, the accuracy of provider data diminishes by 50 per cent in 18 months due to churn. Inaccurate provider data results in issues with payments, communication, increased calls, claims rework etc. No payor will have a competitive disadvantage in sharing provider data with others. A Blockchain powered Provider Data Management (PDM) Network will not only drive down costs, but also increase compliance and customer experience.

 

A Blockchain network is akin to laying rails between two cities, once the infrastructure is established multiple business processes and use cases can be enabled on the network amplifying the benefit to all participants. In the above example, once the PDM network is established, participants can solve other challenges such as longitudinal provider record, patient health record, plan sponsor renewal, coordination of benefits, contracts management etc. creating tremendous value for the collective.

Blockchain offers a unique opportunity to the healthcare industry to unlock possibilities and diminish complexities in the ecosystem. It does so by making it feasible for parties that have previously not partnered with organisations to work together effectively, thus creating a safe and tamper-proof distributed ledger healthcare ecosystem. 

 

— By Venky Ananth, Vice President, Head, Healthcare, Infosys Ltd

Tags: blockchain, healthcare