If you’ve been keeping up with the latest developments in the tech industry, you’ve probably heard the term “blockchain”. The blockchain represents a new kind of technology that’s making waves in virtually every industry, including healthcare. It consists of a series of digital blocks connected by a chain.
Each block represents a separate transaction or chunk of information. Users must enter a specific key to gain access to the system, where they can then add another block to the chain, such as making changes to a patient’s health records, requesting a prescription refill, or passing electronic health records from one provider to the next. All changes remain visible and permanent in the blockchain. Other users can then verify these additional blocks.
The beauty of the blockchain is that these systems aren’t controlled or regulated by a single entity, such as health network or corporation. Instead, individual parties must validate their credentials before adding new information to the system. This creates a system of mutual trust and authenticity.
As you may have guessed, the blockchain has the potential to improve the current healthcare industry by reducing fraud. Large corporations would no longer control the flow of information. Providers can send and share information with more peace of mind, leading to increased cooperation and visibility throughout the market.
Now that you roughly understand how the blockchain works, let’s take a look at some of the most promising apps and companies utilizing this technology.
This Palo Alto-based startup is looking to give consumers more control over their health information. Patient information will be hosted on the blockchain, allowing users to quickly access their private information without having to go through the traditional channels. The app also uses artificial intelligence to glean insights from the user’s health data.
For example, if a patient wants to learn more about their genes or a particular aspect of their health, they can request documents from the system along with predictions about the future of their health. They can then share their findings with their healthcare provider. Doc.AI may be the future of precision medicine as more consumers take their health into their own hands.
We’ve heard countless stories of hackers holding personal health information hostage for ransom, but the blockchain could put an end to these cybersecurity concerns. Patientory secures personal health information on the blockchain, so users can access their personal information from anywhere in the world without leaving it vulnerable to cyberattacks. The app automatically organizes information into separate patient profiles, so users can track every appointment, prescription, and referral.
The software would essentially decentralize the electronic health records system, so facilities and providers aren’t held personally responsible for securing these records.
Transporting sensitive healthcare products and supplies may get easier thanks to Chronicled, a San Francisco-based tech startup. The app is helping providers, pharmaceutical companies, and equipment manufacturers transport sensitive cargo with more peace of mind. Individuals must validate their credentials before transferring shipments from one carrier to another.
The app also increases visibility throughout the healthcare supply chain, so providers and manufacturers can track their shipments in real time. The app can also track the temperature of products, including life-saving medicines that need to stay cool during transit. Parties can move their goods around the globe without worrying about potential fraud, transportation conditions, or losing sight of the location of their products.
Sending and sharing private health information between providers can be a challenge, especially when different providers use separate systems for managing patient records. SimplyVital Health is looking to do away with disparate EHR systems. With this app, providers that share the same patients can quickly send and share information between these organizations.
Patient records will update automatically as one party makes changes in the system. Providers can use these tools to better coordinate their treatment efforts, reduce the price of care, and share findings with other professionals for additional insights and expertise. The system would unify the EHR system as more providers opt in.
Counterfeit drugs remain all too common, especially on the black market and in third-world countries with fewer regulations than those in place in the U.S. Thousands of online pharmacies have popped up over the last few years. Consumers may try to save money by purchasing drugs from unlicensed retailers. Patients might also take drugs with the right label, only to discover their medicine had been swapped out for counterfeit alternatives. Every year around 800,000 people die after taking counterfeit drugs.
Blockpharma wants to put an end to the counterfeit drug problem. The app would let providers and patients trace their drugs back to their sources, reducing fraud and the number of counterfeit drugs on the market. Each block represents a step in the supply chain, so consumers can take their medicine knowing it hasn’t been tampered with along the way.
The blockchain could revolutionize the healthcare industry in the years to come. These apps and programs are designed to tackle some of the industry’s most pressing issues, including EHR interoperability, counterfeit medicines, and securing private health information. The blockchain still has some ways to go before it becomes a pillar of the U.S. healthcare system, but these programs and apps may hold the key to the future. Keep an eye on these startups as we enter the next chapter of healthcare.