What is Blockchain and How Will it Affect Health Care?
If you have heard of the term “blockchain” but have no idea what it is, you’re hardly alone. There’s been a slow buzz building around it, even though few people seem to have a firm grasp on what a blockchain is.
For the uninitiated, blockchain is a digital record structured as a series of blocks strung together to form a chain. Each block represents a digital transaction or event that is validated by multiple computers on the internet. Blockchain is seen as a valuable and effective way to enhance security because the blockchain is distributed across many computers, eliminating the need for a centralized database that might prove tempting to hackers.
According to some experts, blockchain is poised to make a significant impact on the health care industry in 2019.
The Benefits of Blockchain
Multinational professional services network PricewaterhouseCoopers weighed in on the effects of blockchain on the health care industry in a report issued this past fall. They believe its biggest impacts will affect several key areas including supply chain and inventory management; enrollment and provider data management; back office functions and payments; data management; managing risk and regulatory issues; and research and development. They compare it to the impact TCP/IP (transmission control protocol/internet protocol) had in laying the groundwork for digital sending and processing on the internet. TCP/IP made it far less expensive to connect computers, and blockchain has the same potential capability, promising reduced transaction costs.
Blockchain is perfectly suited to the health care industry, given the importance of sharing data while simultaneously keeping it secure. Each block is linked together and encrypted, requiring the information be entered only once. Blockchain enables providers to record transactions involving two parties, verify them instantly, and then generate a payment transaction. Each transaction is assigned a specific block that cannot be altered unless every block in the chain is altered, as well. This could make a profoundly positive impact on claims and reimbursement processes, for instance. Its speed guarantees fast access to a veritable trove of secured data, improving the overall patient experience by providing information quickly and safely while also protecting against counterfeit drugs.
Whether or not blockchain makes significant inroads in the health care arena in 2019 remains to be seen, but the technology seems custom-suited to the industry, so it’s only a matter of time before people stop asking “what is blockchain?” and wondering instead how they can take maximum advantage of all it has to offer.