Will Blockchain Determine The Future Of Healthcare In India?

By: Sonali, Diamond

Published On: January 15, 2022

Blockchain is a word that has picked up again recently, owing partially, to the radical digitization around the world post Covid-19. Many of us have already heard this term in the context of Cryptocurrency or Bitcoin. However, there is much more to blockchain than that, especially in terms of its potential for India. Due to its ability to provide more security and transparency along with effectively saving time and money, blockchain technology is positively impacting a variety of sectors including healthcare. Experts even believe that blockchain has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare ecosystem. But how exactly can blockchain do so? And can blockchain actually determine the future of healthcare in India?

What Is Blockchain?

In its most reductive form, a blockchain can be understood as a decentralized system that generates and stores digital records which are linked together by cryptography. Each digital record is called a “block” that stores: 

  1. relevant information, 

  2. hash (a unique code to protect the data), 

  3. as well as the hash of the previous block. 

In short, blockchain technology is considered to be a secure open ledger that stores digital transactions and other data over multiple networks.

Blockchain In Healthcare

“Blockchain in healthcare is all about removing the middleman. It is about increasing the security of various transactional activities in the healthcare space while eliminating bureaucracy and manual inefficiencies, improving quality of care, and democratizing patient data,” says Codrin, CEO of Digital Authority Partners. Basically, blockchain technology works as a secure public ledger to record digital transactions and can help in the efficient handling of medical records.

Features Of Blockchain

Decentralized Network - It acts as a distributed ledger that stores all the current and previous transactions that can be shared by concerned stakeholders. This provides instant access thereby reducing the time required to access a patient’s medical history and unnecessary costs involved in repeating medical tests and procedures.

Transparency - The patients will have a unique identification code in the Blockchain and any new information will be added with this unique identity to the EHR. Only with the consent of the owner, can any stakeholder access the patient’s data. 

Immutability- The data stored in blocks are protected by a unique code called Hash. Any unauthorized tampering with the data results in the formation of a different hash than the original. This results in restricting any unlawful activity and notifying all the participating users about the same. 

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Also Read: Can Telemedicine And Telehealth Change The Future Of Healthcare?

Blockchain In Indian Healthcare System

One of the major indicators of overall health in a country is its expenditure on healthcare as a proportion of its GDP. India holds immense potential to increase its spending which is currently at less than 4%. Electronic Health Records (EHR) play an integral role in processing and analyzing the medical records of patients to provide required medical care. Blockchain can help in making EHR more efficient, secure, and transparent.

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The need for migration to digital technologies to make healthcare services more accessible and efficient was brought to the forefront during the pandemic. Understanding the need, the Government of India launched National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) ‘to digitize the healthcare records across the country.’

“The NDHM is expected to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of health services in the country.”

Apart from managing the health records, there are a lot of other issues for which blockchain can be a possible solution, as can be seen below:

No Chance of Losing Data - Loss of medical data is often a cause of major distress for health professionals and patients. Blockchain being a decentralized system of recording data ensures that no data related to a patient is ever lost and is securely stored throughout.

Quick and Easy Access - As blockchain maintains a chronological record of data, a patient’s medical history can be accessed and analyzed by healthcare professionals with utmost ease from any part of the globe. 

Teething Issues - Teething issues like medical record discrepancies, data breaches, insurance frauds, and many others can be solved to a great extent with the introduction of blockchain as it completely eliminates any third-party involvement.

Interoperability - Lack of efficient interoperability is again one of the major issues that are present and many times patients have to suffer when they decide to change their service providers. Patients have to bear the additional costs of redoing their medical tests and treatment processes that add to their financial burden and frustration.

All these and many more related problems can be addressed to a major extent with the adoption of blockchain technology in the healthcare sector.

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Future Of Blockchain In Healthcare Sector

While blockchain may not be the ‘be all end all,’ one cannot neglect its capability to solve many issues plaguing the healthcare sector. As the blockchain solutions in healthcare continue developing, the Business Intelligence and Strategy Research estimates in its report that ‘blockchain in healthcare will grow to reach over $5.6 billion by the end of 2025. Moreover, blockchain’s advantages in cutting costs related to data breaches, operations, IT, and fraud are projected to save the industry up to $150 billion per year by 2025.’ According to the World Economic Forum, up to 10% of the global GDP will be stored on blockchain by 2025.

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On similar lines, one of the aims of the National Health Policy (NHP) drafted in 2017 by the Government of India is to create a digital health technology environment. To protect the patient’s privacy and security of digital health data, Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act (DISHA) was drafted in 2017. It aims to establish the National Digital Health Authority and Health Information Exchange, which if integrated with blockchain technology, will have the power to transform the Indian healthcare sector to a great extent. A distributed blockchain arrangement for digital medical records could optimize efficiency and create better health-related outcomes for the patients in the long run. 

In all, blockchain is definitely here to stay and its integration can help to provide 1.3 billion Indian’s a safer, reliable, and efficient healthcare system.

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