Blockchain technology is a remarkably versatile new tool that companies, governments, and innovators can use to improve modern life, and healthcare is an industry in which it could have a deeply transformative impact.
Blockchain’s transformation of healthcare begins with its ability to place the custody and value of patient health data back in the hands of the patients themselves.
1. Blockchain technology makes patients the sole gatekeepers of their health data, for the first time.
Blockchain technology allows patients to keep their data private and highly secure, while also enabling them to share it easily between electronic medical record (EMR) systems.
People often feel uncomfortable entrusting their private health data to a platform that can read and mine it. But by combining public-key encryption (PKI) with IPFS storage, storing only a hash of the data on the blockchain, a platform can allow patients to keep their data completely private, even from the platform’s own operators. This arrangement also allows the patient to control who has access to their data, for how long, and to what information.
2. Blockchain technology allows healthy lifestyles to be rewarded with cryptocurrency.
It can be hard to convince people to take care of themselves. How many people do you know who “should” go to the gym, but never do? Probably a lot. Meanwhile, destructive lifestyles increase health costs for everyone. Unhealthy patients need more treatments, resulting in increased insurance payouts, and increased insurance premiums for all.
With blockchain technology, we can leverage the value of cryptocurrency to encourage healthy behaviors, and ultimately reduce healthcare costs worldwide.
3. Blockchain technology enables the creation of an open pharmacy market, reducing medication costs for consumers while increasing profits for pharmacies.
Blockchain technology allows patients to upload prescriptions anonymously and receive price quotes from nearby pharmacies.
The American market for medications consists mostly of insured consumers, for whom reduced medication costs may not make as great a difference. Meanwhile, if a mere 5% of the American uninsured market — estimated at 29 million in 2016 — were to participate, millions of dollars would be put back in the pockets of consumers.
Worldwide, the implications are even greater. In a country like India, 95% of the pharmacy market is based on cash payment, and cost is the main differentiator between competing pharmacies. In India, over 1 billion people would save money on every prescription.
4. Blockchain technology allows communities to pool their money and insure their neighbors.
Blockchain technology enables private citizens in any area or community to risk-pool their money, and use it to cover the healthcare needs of payers.
Specifically, the blockchain could allow this pool to be governed by smart contracts, eliminating the need for patients to trust a central organization, let alone pay for its administrative overhead as part of their insurance payments.
These four ideas are merely the “tip of the iceberg.” As blockchain technology gains global acceptance, new use cases will continue to arise. Giving power back to the patient is a good start, and makes all of the above possible.