Healthcare is no doubt an important issue. Let us take a look at some important statistics.
The UK is predicted to spend £147 billion on healthcare in 2018, equating to roughly 18% of GDP. If this seems a staggering figure then hold tight because in the same period, the US government has allocated $1.6 trillion – 22.9% of GDP – towards meeting the medical needs of the American people.
There’s no doubt about it; healthcare is big business.
Because our health matters so much to us and because of the staggering sums of money, logistics and data involved across the healthcare sector, the question of how services are run is of fundamental importance.
In the UK, the NHS is constantly at the forefront of political debate, whilst over in the States, the recent Senate wrangling over ObamaCare highlights just how contentious the whole question of healthcare and its availability continues to be.
Any healthcare system, be it nationalised or privately funded, needs to run as efficiently as possible if it is to avoid becoming a financial black hole and yet any attempt at cutting costs can all-too-frequently be felt by the very people the service is meant to be caring for.
As accountants and politicians weigh up the overwhelming budgeting complexities involved, there may be a new weapon in their armoury in the form of blockchain technology.
Blockchain first came to prominence in 2009 as the operating platform for the digital currency Bitcoin. Since then, its use has expanded exponentially and there is much excited talk of its potential to radically revolutionise fields such as cyber security, logistics and supply chains and global finance amongst many others. Healthcare, it seems, could be next in line.
Blockchain functions as an immutable, shared ledger of peer-to-peer transactions which operates free of any centralised authority. This makes it uniquely invulnerable to manipulation or outside interference, thus providing a potentially unprecedented level of security. Data is shared publicly and available for anyone with access permissions to view. This added transparency provides yet another layer of integrity for the data it transmits, as any adjustments are clearly visible to all other users.
The implications across the healthcare sector are enormous. For a start, data security – as demonstrated by the hacking of NHS services earlier this year – is of paramount importance and any weapon against hackers who seek to compromise patient data is desperately needed.
Streamlined Data Analysis
Then there is the question of the data itself and how it is used. One prime example is that of clinical trials and their results. Having the data for these trials and their outcomes stored on blockchains will help eradicate the fraudulent manipulation of these results by drug companies or foreign governments.
The possibilities go on and on, with record-keeping, drug development and supply, interoperability and the precision of patient care just a few of the areas set to benefit from this new technology. Blockchain promises not only greater safety, but also much improved efficiency and productivity. The streamlining of services and the minimalisation of wastage can only have a positive effect upon the overall service.
It is worth remembering that any money used to keep us healthy is well spent and, in a sense, the financial cost should always be a secondary consideration to the wellbeing of patients. But if savings can be made through the use of blockchain and services improved as a result, then the benefits will be felt in the end by the very people who most need them.
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