Can Blockchain Fix Health Care?
Written by Alexandra Perry
Posted June 29, 2018
“Our health care system is broken.”
As an American, I hear this statement at least a dozen times a year.
And I don't hear it solely from Americans struggling with medical debt. I also hear it from many of my friends and family in the medical profession, who feel like an overly regulated and bureaucratic system often prevents effective and timely medical care.
And these individuals aren't wrong. All you have to do is look at the statistics.
When it comes to developed countries, America has the lowest life expectancy, the highest infant mortality rate, and the most preventable deaths per capita.
And for all that failure, we pay the most.
America pays the most per person for health care out of any country.
And 60% of Americans faced with medical bills blow through their savings trying to pay them off.
Why is this the case?
Well, like all great problems, there are multiple factors.
But for America, one of the biggest issues is the one pointed out by my medical friends: operational inefficiency created by a heavily regulated environment.
Every time you go to the hospital, there are multiple parties going with you.
An interaction that should be just you and your doctor has become an interaction between, you, your doctor, the government, squabbling insurance agents, fat-cat pharmaceutical companies, and a hospital focused on profit.
In this system, you as the patient get the short end of the stick.
But emerging technologies can provide remedies to this broken system.
And one such emerging technology is blockchain.
Out of all the industries blockchain could impact, health care may be poised to benefit the most. Blockchain could remove many of the inefficiencies traditionally associated with medicine, ultimately empowering patients and doctors. It can improve care just by making things easier.
Blockchain could help store patient information in a safe and manageable way. It could even empower patients to sell their own medical data back to the companies that have had control for years.
Let me give you a hypothetical.
My Appendix: A Medical Mystery
For starters, I would like to say that the blockchain situation I’m about to describe to you is hypothetical.
But the story of my appendix exploding is not.
When I was in college, I started to experience searing pain under my belly button.
At the time, I was a healthy 20-year-old on no medications. I figured what I was feeling was just a bit of a stomach bug. Within a few hours, it became apparent I was wrong.
By nine that night, my stomach was so swollen I looked pregnant. One of my friends drove me 20 minutes to the nearest hospital. And this is where things get tricky.
After waiting in the ER for an hour, I was finally taken back into a room. The attending staff asked me a lot of questions. It was very clear they also didn't know what was happening.
It took another two hours to diagnose what I had as appendicitis. And by then, my appendix had perforated. It had reached a point where it would have been too dangerous to transport me to a hospital closer to my parents. I had to have surgery right away.
Today, when I look back on the appendix incident, I realize there were a lot of ways the situation could have been improved.
Part of it was my own fault. I didn't have any of my medical information, and because of that I spent extra hours in pain because the attending ER staff didn't know my medical history.
If they had known my medical history, they would have known I had come to the ER twice in the past year for abdominal pain.
This likely would have sped up the diagnosis and treatment process.
And one of the ways they could have had access to my health care information was with blockchain.
Blockchain technology is immutable, which means it can store vast amounts of sensitive data without concern.
In this situation, my medical history could have been stored on a blockchain. I could have been wearing a bracelet with a QR code that allowed the doctor to access that information the second I sat down on the table.
Of course, the situation I just described to you is hypothetical.
We aren’t at a point yet in our medical system where everyone’s information can be accessed easily and stored both simply and securely. Usually, when doctors need information about a patient, they call the patient’s other doctors. This happens because storing medical information is very sensitive, making it more challenging for physicians to share records.
But there are a few blockchain companies that are working to change this.
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Two Blockchain Companies Changing Health Care
While there are multiple companies in the blockchain market focusing on the health care space, there are a couple that stood out to our team.
Gem is a provider of enterprise blockchain solutions based in California. In 2016, the company launched Gem Health, which is a network for developing applications and shared infrastructure. To date, this network is powered by the Ethereum Blockchain.
What does Gem Health do? Put simply, Gem Health uses blockchain to address the trade-off between patient-centric care and operational efficiency. Blockchain is being used to create a connected health care system, which will save doctors’ time when confronted with cases like my appendix.
This shared infrastructure will also allow Gem to create global standards without compromising efficiency and security. This is critical in the health care space, where patient data is sensitive.
Patientory is another blockchain company using technology to give patients more agency. The Atlanta company is developing a blockchain-based platform that will be able to secure health data for providers, patients, and medical institutions.
Essentially, this approach allows doctors to access patient information and provide more effective treatment without ever putting patient information at risk.
Through the Patientory app, users can also create advanced health profiles. These profiles can be used to interact with doctors as well as keep track of the patient's health history. In just one screen, a doctor could have access to all of the patient's previous appointments, medications, and illnesses.
And that is groundbreaking.
Moving into a Brighter Future
There is no denying that our health care system is complex and multifaceted.
A successful health care system demands that doctors have access to data while patients remain protected. And this has created a lot of complex systems and security protocols that ultimately slow down patient treatment.
But with blockchain, the medical world could leap into the future.
Blockchain would allow for both increased efficiency and security. And it could potentially return power to the patient, allowing them to reclaim their data and better monitor their health.
And it isn't just blockchain changing medicine.
While we tend to focus on blockchain here at Token Authority, there are dozens of emerging technologies that are improving the health care space. And they could make investors a pretty penny.
@AlexandraPerryC on Twitter
Alexandra Perry is the managing editor of Token Authority and the associate editor of Technology and Opportunity. She also contributes weekly content to Wealth Daily, a free investment research newsletter that addresses a range of market topics. She has multiple years of experience working with startup companies, primarily focusing on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, alternative energy, and biotech. Her take on investing is simple: a new age of investor can make monumental returns by investing in emerging industries and foundational startup ventures.
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