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Op-ed: Blockchain Technology Can Revolutionize Global Healthcare Systems

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Healthcare in developing parts of the world has remained below standard over a long period of time. The reasons for this can be related to system weaknesses in terms of leadership, governance, workforce, technology, finance among others.

Traditional implementations in attempt to achieve lasting solutions to these problems have left the people going round in circles with most nations depending on international aides. Perhaps the lack of motivation by healthcare beneficiaries who usually go through rigorous processes also plays a huge role in the existing setbacks experienced.

Blockchain in Healthcare, a Growing Trend

Blockchain implementation in the healthcare industry is becoming popular practice. It is being adopted for several purposes which include enhancing supply chain management, especially in the pharmaceutical sector. Data and process management, security and information confidentiality, public health surveillance among other purposes are also being enhanced using blockchain.

Tokenization appears to be one of the most dynamic aspect of blockchain technology that is enabling the extended flexibility ever present in its implementation. The existence of underlying tokens has enabled trustless and transparent transactions and goes a long way to reducing the human influence that has been blamed for most of the bottlenecks that exist within administrative settings. Payments, rewards and incentivisation processes have also been sanitized using smart contracts, thereby re-establishing trust and building motivation for participants in blockchain settings.

With the achievements made so far, it is no secret that blockchain technology presents immense opportunity for healthcare on a global scale. Digital Health expert and CEO of Izzy Care, Kenneth Colon tells CCN that one of the biggest promises of blockchain technology is enabling patients to monetize their health data, if they so choose, allowing them personally to benefit financially from their data, and not the corporations who traditionally maintain control of this data.

Rewards for Regimen

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Colon elaborates that blockchain technology can further be used to tokenize a patient’s health and wellness. For example, token rewards can be issued, in a trustless fashion with smart contracts to patients for following their prescribed treatment regimen and making progress towards their personal health and wellness goals.

Such development is expected to enable patients across the globe to bring down the cost of their medical care and benefit financially from achieving their personal health goals.

With the proper structure, token economies could also enable the subsidizing of care for individuals and families with little-to-no annual income, who otherwise may be unable to afford access to the high-quality care they deserve as is obtainable in most developing nations.

Blockchain Alone Is Not Enough

As promising as blockchain technology is, however, it is also important to note that blockchain alone isn’t enough to solve healthcare globally.

One of the key areas that must be addressed is what kind of care is delivered. The type of one-off, transactional model we currently see in healthcare like local and international aides as mentioned above appears to be counterproductive. These methods have a way of discouraging patients from seeking help in the first place, considering the stress and rampant mismanagement that exist in such circles. The siloed nature of this care is equally counterproductive. You cannot expect someone, a patient, to thrive if you’re not caring for them holistically, taking into account their general medical needs, mental health, nutrition, etc.

The focus should be on some robust, all-inclusive payment models to deliver highly personalized, integrated care. This means treating patients as individuals, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, and taking into account not only their physical health, but their mental health and access to proper nutrition.

Hence, it is also necessary to address provider shortages by embracing other technologies and using them in conjunction with blockchain. For example, using artificial intelligence to further automate clinician workflows, enabling healthcare providers to focus on higher-yield tasks, such as seeing more patients and forming stronger patient-doctor relationships. Or utilizing telemedicine (encrypted messaging, live video) to bridge provider gaps, connecting patients and providers across the globe.

Solutions that allow patients to monetize their own data, reward patients for engaging in their care and drive down costs, make treatment accessible to all, support the evolution of delivery models to support precision medicine and integrated care, and embrace technologies to automate workflows and help physicians have higher-quality interactions with more patients, I believe, are crucial for the advancement of healthcare worldwide.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are solely that of the author and do not represent those of, nor should they be attributed to CCN.

Images from Shutterstock

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