There is no disagreeing with the fact that we are in the golden age of technology. It seems new technology is introduced every few years or even months. Fortunately, many of these new devices, platforms, and software are being used to try and solve an issue.
One of the recent tech buzzwords you may have come across in the last year or so is the "blockchain." Many have said that the blockchain is going to change everything, from how we buy stuff, to how we conduct business, trade, and even our healthcare systems.
Today, we're going to talk about what exactly the blockchain is and how it can positively affect the healthcare industry.
What is the Blockchain?
We're not going to spend a whole lot of time on explaining what exactly the blockchain is, but it's good to have a little bit of background before we dive into how it will affect the healthcare industry.
In the most basic terms, the "block" in "blockchain" stands for information. Meanwhile, the "chain" represents a database. Within these chains (database), there is an infinite amount of blocks (information). The chain connects all this information.
So, what exactly makes up the information within the blockchain? According to Investopedia, the information is broken down this way:
- Blocks keep track of transactions (time, date, cost)
- Blocks will further store more information based on this transaction, such as the parties involved. For a healthcare example, it would store your name (as a unique digital signature, not your exact name) and the name of the hospital or clinic you visited
- To make sure that the blocks can be distinguishable, they store a unique code within each transaction.
So, how exactly does blockchain affect the healthcare industry?
Allows Patients More Control Over Medical Records
One of the biggest ways blockchain can improve the healthcare industry is by allowing patients to have more control over their medical records. Some blockchain healthcare startups have put that front and center in terms of trying to solve the issue.
Dr. Abdullah Alebyatti, one of the founders of Medicalchain, a healthcare blockchain platform, in an interview with Forbes, said he "...was becoming increasingly frustrated, talking to patients who didn't have their medical records."
Medicalchain and startups like it are working hard to make sure that patients have full control over their medical records.
Medical Researchers Will Benefit
In addition to improving things on the patient side, blockchain can also help bring more information to researchers in a faster, more efficient way. Because the blockchain will store a vast amount of medical information, researchers will be able to understand health trends in specific geographic areas better.
Ultimately, this will lead to researchers being able to detect outbreaks faster. Also, if AI is installed into the blockchain, it would be simple for an AI to spot potential outbreaks. Government leaders and authorities within the healthcare sphere of that country could then respond in a faster time and limit those getting sick.
Keep Tabs on Meds
Another benefit that blockchain can provide is that it can help keep track of medications. Counterfeit drugs are a large problem in countries that are still developing. From the time a drug is first produced to when it reaches the consumer, blockchain can keep tabs on it.
In fact, blockchain is already used frequently for maintaining the order of supply chains that are very complex. If blockchain is fully integrated into the healthcare systems around the world, the medications that a person is prescribed could be integrated into the medical records. As a result, you could cut down on counterfeit prescription drugs.
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