By Lisa Bowman, editor, Data for XYZ.
Technological advancements have taken healthcare from a basic level to what, in comparison, seems sophisticated and state-of-the-art. For example, MRI, CT, PET and ultrasound technologies have drastically improved diagnostics and treatment in healthcare. Technology’s impact on communication has also radically changed healthcare. Images and information can be sent and received instantly, allowing medical professionals to consult and collaborate with each other regarding a patient’s diagnosis and treatment.
With digital means of recording and accessing patient medical history, continuity of care is easier than ever. With all of the changes technology has brought to the healthcare system, it would seem that patients and providers would be more than satisfied with the level of care and efficiency.
Unfortunately, reality says the contrary. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, over 70 percent of Americans think the healthcare system in the US is “’in a state of crisis”’. Patients, providers, and insurance companies face frustrations daily. Patients struggle to interpret their benefits and get approved for treatment. Denial of benefits and delayed payments plague patients and providers. The problem isn’t a lack of technology, as previously discussed. The problem is a lack of a mechanism to capitalize on existing technology. Information is already digital in the majority of medical offices, and a range of methods for electronic communication already exist. What the healthcare system needs now is a streamlined way of getting information where it needs to go in real time.
Blockchain to the Rescue
At first mention, it may seem far-fetched that blockchain technology would help the healthcare system. Most people know little about what blockchain technology, and if they are aware of it, it’s most often associated with cryptocurrency. Interestingly, the same blockchain technology that makes cryptocurrency possible is being applied in many arenas outside of cryptocurrency due to its ability to securely and efficiently verify and log transactions.
The blockchain is essentially a ledger of events that updates in real time. In cryptocurrency, for example, algorithms verify authenticity of coins, and coins are sent and received once verification is determined. The transaction is then stored in the blockchain. This is appealing to many people for many reasons. One reason is that quicker transfers of currencies are possible when the middle man is eliminated. Algorithms can do in seconds what banks take days to do. Another reason is that information is encrypted, which means privacy and security of information.
In terms of healthcare, a company called Solve.Care has undertaken the challenge of solving the existing problems in the healthcare system using the blockchain. The biggest plagues in healthcare are rooted in the administrative area. Many hours are spent tracking down information that should be easily and instantly available to relevant parties. For instance, it may take days or weeks to receive a letter denying an insurance claim.