The medical field, with help from large investments, advances as quickly as any industry, and 2020 has already seen new medical devices innovations in remote treatment due to COVID limitations, AI robot nurses, and ways to save money thanks to technology. Speaking of money, the healthcare industry is also joining the world of blockchain and crypto, and here are some of the ways they are doing so.
Snail mail has been heavily replaced by email, more college classes are taken online than in the classroom, and finances are following suit with cryptocurrency. Though not new (Bitcoin was decentralized in 2009), cryptocurrency popularity has certainly gone from underground to close-to-mainstream. In 2019, the crypto-economy spent $237 billion, almost doubling the 2018 output of $129 billion, meaning this is a very rapidly growing means of making financial transactions.
Cryptocurrency is considered one of the most secure ways to make online transactions (more on that later), and the reasons are aplenty. On the trivial side, the simplicity of being able to make large purchases devoid of central banks is very appealing to people with more nomadic lifestyles (or ones that simply want to work around government regulation), and it also cuts out the middleman, avoiding fees and keeping overall costs down for consumers.
When it comes to healthcare, it has definitely been baby steps as far as those who utilize cryptocurrency due to the sheer vastness involving a change in the way we pay for our healthcare. It’s the same reason that new legislations involving healthcare take so much time to be implemented. Some examples of potential uses for cryptocurrency in the hospital space include drug and equipment purchases, accommodations for family members around hospitals, and even small things like ordering entertainment to a given patient’s room.
Outside of the hospital, cryptocurrency can also add fluidity to things like online consultations with doctors, or purchasing of drugs outside of the hospital (e.g., home prescription delivery).
As a specific example of a company going “all in” with cryptocurrency, you can look at ClinicAll, a healthcare company that provides services and products to their consumers via mail, as well as digital consultations. Their goal is “to make healthcare accessible to everyone,” and it’s fair to say they have been on the right track since formulating in 2008.
The primary allure of blockchain technology involves the security and transparency of purchases made, and this is constant with cryptocurrency across all industries that utilize it as a form of payment. A place for additional optimism, however, lies in pharmaceutical distribution. Utilizing the same technology that allows for the transparency of crypto transactions, pharmacies can help prevent the very serious issue of e-prescription abuse. The novelty of “e-scripts” gives way to a lot of opportunities for prescriptions to be utilized more than once, opening doors that are definitely not helping the opioid epidemic that took more American lives in 2017 than the entire Vietnam War did.
In simple terms, the security that is so revered with blockchain is due to a “block” that marks the transaction, being stored simultaneously on thousands of computers within a network. If someone tries to access one of these blocks, even successfully, it can be compared to all of the other blocks created at a time of a transaction and be deemed a “repeat” or some kind of manipulation, ultimately being disallowed. This same “catching a repeat” technology can be used in the pharmaceutical distribution space to avoid multiple transactions made with a singular prescription.
Again, given the size and amount of overhaul that needs to be done to implement cryptocurrency into mainstream healthcare purchasing will be cause for a long, slow process with many failures, and even the newness of cryptocurrency itself, leaves a lot of power players very skeptical. The hopes are that cryptocurrency allows for lower prices for consumers, but there aren’t many consumers in the position to move the process along.
A fair comparator would be that of electronic health records, which was a radical idea just a decade ago, and now allows for hospitals across the country (and beyond) to stay in constant contact regarding a patient’s past and present needs for care. This increase in quality of care was the ultimate motivator for EHRs, and if cryptocurrency can save patients substantial amounts of money, that can allow them to receive better care… ultimately the same motivator. We will see!