India Can Revolutionize It’s Healthcare System Through BlockchainApril 12, 2021
With a population of more than 1.3 billion people, maintaining efficacy, security, and transparency across healthcare records in India is essential. Working at the highest level of efficiency within the healthcare system is crucial to the current target of providing universal healthcare in India by 2030. A universal healthcare system should strive to reach every citizen, providing equality in both access and in care. However, the large rural populations in India make it difficult. In addition to this, India is also facing the pressing issue of a shortage in healthcare staff, further restricting the well-functioning of the healthcare system. How then can India regain its footing and ensure the future prosperity of its healthcare system? The answer might lie in blockchain technology.
The incorporation of digital currency and blockchain technology into healthcare in any society or country would dramatically change the way in which we engage with healthcare services, from consultation to payment of services and prescriptions. India has a fantastic opportunity to embrace this technology, revolutionize its healthcare system and ensure its stability, accessibility, and most importantly, affordability. By incorporating blockchain technology, India’s healthcare system would benefit from enhanced transparency and security of transactions made within the healthcare system, improving the efficiency of the system for all stakeholders. Healthcare systems require extensive collaboration between healthcare provision, personal patient data, and payment systems. The implementation of this technology would allow for improved collaboration amongst stakeholders, improving the patient experience and driving efficiencies for healthcare providers. Technology will be an essential component if we are to have any chance of meeting India’s target of providing universal healthcare by 2030.
By its very nature, the core elements of blockchain as a distributed, shared, and immutable digital ledger means if it was utilized in a healthcare setting, it could cut out intermediaries thereby reducing costs, while offering greater transparency and traceability across all processes within the healthcare system. By integrating cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, any state can add fluidity to services such as online consultations and purchasing medical prescriptions. Implementing blockchain technology in healthcare services will allow for secure online consultations to take place between medical professionals and members of the public in any location, a resolution for the issue of staff shortages. This issue has become pertinent over the past year due to the pandemic, as medical practitioners are placing their lives on the line to treat their patients who may indeed be infected with COVID-19. This issue has been somewhat alleviated with the growing demand for the use of telehealth platforms. Pairing telehealth technologies with blockchain allows for unparalleled security and greater accessibility, which any nation with a struggling healthcare system such as India should consider.
The healthcare industry would be wise to critically analyze any and all technologies that claim to have the capability to revolutionize processes in the healthcare industry, although healthcare administrators and indeed legislators can rest easier knowing that the banking sector in India has demonstrated its own support for blockchain technology. One of the most risk-averse industries across the world is the banking industry. In India, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and Yes Bank each joined the Interbank Information Network, led by JP Morgan, which was established to enable cross-border payments by using blockchain technology. The aforementioned banks, in addition to HDFC, Kotak Mahindra, Standard Chartered, RBL and South Indian Bank, also formed a consortium in 2019 to run a loan system for SMEs in the country on blockchain. India’s banking sector, by proactively investing in blockchain platforms as part of a new push towards digital transformation, has shown the industries’ propensity to embrace this technology but also the strong faith that they have in its capabilities.
Information systems in the Indian healthcare system lack trust and data security, which is of great concern to medical practitioners and patients alike. Healthcare systems that wish to provide a seamless experience for all stakeholders must integrate effective measures in order to ensure the security of health information. The type of technology systems that are integrated into national healthcare systems must provide robust security. The Indian government has recognized the importance of health information management, and has set goals for building a district-level health system information database and establishing a federated integrated health information architecture, health information exchange, and national health information network by 2025. While these are undoubtedly positive commitments, a more comprehensive approach could be taken to safeguard these systems, placing India above the pack in terms of data security. Doing so could also infer a greater level of competitiveness in India’s economy overall, which would greatly benefit it as it seeks to raise the living standards of its population and become even more of a dominant force on the global stage.
The large scale of the Indian population raises issues for physicians requiring access to patient information across healthcare sectors. Healthcare patients in India do not currently maintain ownership of their medical records; the care provider retains control over patient data, which has resulted in many issues based on the sharing of patient data between multiple healthcare providers. This has resulted in duplication of health data for the same patient as he or she moves from one provider to another. By utilizing blockchain technology, medical professionals from New Delhi to Goa would be able to access a patient’s records within seconds. Such records would only be accessible to medical professionals with the necessary permissions granted by the patients themselves, and would be protected by encryption, providing a high level of security for personal data. The development and implementation of such systems, however, can be costly. This is one of the many instances in which blockchain can make a true difference to the healthcare industry; rather than developing costly information systems that are interoperable across a notoriously archaic industry, blockchain technology allows for the building of interoperability around the patient. Doing so empowers patients to be self-sovereign, ensuring that all medical data is decentralized and in the control of the patient. This in itself is a revolutionary benefit for both the healthcare industry and patients themselves. By taking this a step further and utilizing digital currencies in healthcare, healthcare practitioners and hospital administrators can easily track and audit patient transactions on the ledger, ensuring a more transparent payment system for all parties involved.
Other benefits include access to information on a product’s manufacturing location, date and time stamp, and supply chain information. Such information is useful for saving money and time if issues arise with medical purchases. Another relevant area is in helping to resolve issues such as e-prescription abuse, and the possibility of fraudulent claims made to insurance companies.
The vast scale of what a universal healthcare system may look like in India will require efficient, secure, and sustainable processes that can provide equality of access and equality of care. In order to achieve this goal, India must implement a digital health solution that provides accessible patient data for healthcare professionals, reduced risk of fraud in insurance pay-outs, and a versatile accountability system, from prescriptions to medical equipment. Blockchain technology can be leveraged to provide the platform for secure information generation and exchange, increasing accountability around purchases and providing well rounded care for all patients. In looking to the future, India has immense potential when it comes to the reformation of its healthcare service, and it is clear from the nation’s commitments and goals that the appetite for radical change is already there. It is up to the participants in the system to decide which is the best path forward, and it is clear that the benefits offered by blockchain technology present a great opportunity to ensure that this system will flourish.
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