Value-based healthcare is driven by ‘meaningful’ treatment that matters to the patient. The purpose of value-based healthcare is not minimizing the costs, but maximizing the ‘value’, which is defined by “patient outcomes divided by cost”; (1) thus emphasizing on a patient’s importance. (2)

The progress in efficient healthcare services relies to a great extent on the technological advances, as well as on the ability of economically and effectively recording and storing data, thus facilitating secure data transfer for various applications. (3) However, the inability to effectively share sensitive data has been observed to prevent and/or delay the improvements in value-based healthcare systems. For instance, paper communications and manual processes are deterring the communication amongst healthcare stakeholders about the possible care gaps. Moreover, most physicians are unaware of the quality measures pertaining to each patient, (4) while almost 80% are unaware of their incentives. (5) Furthermore, the lack of interoperability and linking between the healthcare storage systems adds to the difficulty of data transmission, retrieval, and analysis; thus containing most of the data in silos. In addition, the growing concerns regarding data privacy and security leads to data breaches and malicious attacks on healthcare organizations. Also, these defects result in considerable data inefficiency and depletion, leading to poor health outcomes for the most important stakeholder; the patient. A prevalent lack of incentivized health systems and providers exists that shifts their focus from maximisation of patient outcomes.

In order to overcome these challenges, a decentralized, distributed ledger infrastructure built around strong cryptography, named as “blockchain technology” is expected to support full digital transformation across the healthcare space. (6,7) To put it simply, blockchain is a log of transactions that is duplicated and allocated across multiple decentralized locations. It offers reliable, unbiased third party mechanisms to gauge the location of a particular data set and also the predictions about its precise transformation. (8) Recently, blockchain technology has been witnessing rapid growth, especially in the healthcare and life sciences domains; and it’s only the beginning of what’s possible. A recent IBM study- ‘how blockchains can provide new benefits for healthcare’- reports that about 16% of healthcare executives are planning to implement a commercial blockchain solution at present and this number is expected to reach to 56% by 2020. (9,10)

According to a recent survey, blockchain in healthcare is estimated to grow from the current value of $176.8mn to $5.61bn by the end of 2025. (11) Blockchain technology is increasingly emerging as the universal remedy for all the issues regarding healthcare data interoperability and security. It can also play a vital role in overcoming the challenges related to legal systems. Transparency, complete elimination of third-party intermediaries, and reformation of operational processes as well as large costs are some of the major advantages of employing blockchain.3 Furthermore, employing innovative blockchain technology will facilitate patient access, reduce costs for all stakeholders and evade infrastructural limitations to drive value improvement, incentivize innovation; thus accelerating the shift towards personalized healthcare.

A challenge should first be identified by healthcare organizations, instead of adopting blockchain and searching for its application. There are five areas in healthcare where blockchain can prove to be applicable, viz. Supply chains, clinical trials, provider directory management, patient records, and insurance coverage, preauthorization, and claims adjudication. (12)

Blockchain can be applied in case of multiple supply chain functions in life sciences, particularly proving beneficial for the life sciences supply chain; such as provenance, serialization track and trace and specialty logistics. (13) Depending on the requirement and types of permissions among data sharers, there can be different types of blockchains providing value to the life sciences supply chain. In case of clinical trials, data like patient demographics, information about adverse reactions, and interim results can be collected, built upon and securely shared among the parties involved in a the conduct of a trial across multiple sites. Blockchain can also help manage and track other trial functions like informed consent across multiple sites, systems, and protocols. Healthcare organizations and physician directories can apply blockchain technology to control decentralized consensus protocols, thus allowing providers and health plans to update listings more quickly. Furthermore, blockchain can organize the whole history of data communications from patient records taken from numerous health systems, pharmacies, and health plans. This information can then be processed into decipherable information for a patient’s own use, or converted into records that can be read by a variety of electronic medical records (EMR) systems. Finally, blockchain can also help dissolving communication barriers between payers and providers. By enabling safe and secure data exchange in real time, blockchain can bring payers and their providers together in their mutual pursuit to deliver improved patient outcomes.(12)

Blockchain can transform into a more value-based healthcare system by improving patient engagement, further creating opportunities for more consumer-centric product segments and revenue streams.(3)  In near future, approximately 30 percent of life sciences companies are planning to employ blockchain, thus opening new business opportunities and addressing past challenges. Blockchain tools in healthcare applications know no bounds, given the necessity for specialized medicines and therapies.

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References 

  1. Porter ME. Redefining health Care: Creating value-based competition on results. National Association of Chain Drug Stores. May, 2006.
  2. van den Tempel H. The relationship between blockchain and value-based healthcare. February, 2018.
  3. Sturman C. Blockchain can pave the way for a more value-based healthcare system, report suggests. April, 2018.
  4. Quest Diagnostics/Inovalon. Finding a Path to Value-Based Care. June, 2016.
  5. The Physicians Foundation. 2016 Survey of America’s Physicians. 2016.
  6. The Voyage of Discovery: Blockchain for Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices. IEEE. April, 2017.
  7. Blockchain: A Catalyst for the Next Wave of Progress in Life Sciences. Cognizant. June, 2017.
  8. Bean R, et al. How Blockchain Is Impacting Healthcare And Life Sciences Today. April, 2018.
  9. Frazeer H. How blockchains can provide new benefits for healthcare. February, 2017.
  10. Marr B. This Is Why Blockchains Will Transform Healthcare. November, 2017.
  11. BIS Research. Global Blockchain in Healthcare Market: Focus on Industry Analysis and Opportunity Matrix – Analysis and Forecast, 2018-2025. 2018.
  12. Reh G. Beyond bitcoin: Five possible uses for blockchain in healthcare. Deloitte. May, 2018.
  13. Guenther C.  Transforming life sciences with blockchain. February, 2018.

Written by: Ms. Tanvi Laghate

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