Keys for Healthcare Innovation? AI, Machine Learning, and Blockchain!

There is namely one positive effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. It shows us, on a global scale, how important it is to be open to innovation in healthcare. Coronavirus is acting as a catalyst for the newest research and experimentations with technology in this field. It appears that AI, machine learning, and blockchain are vital to facilitating this change. Blockchain technology is one of the most disruptive technologies in the world. This rapidly evolving field provides fertile ground for proof-of-concept testing, experimentation, and investment.​ Let’s acquaint ourselves with the blockchain’s features that are going to change the future of the healthcare industry.

The importance of taking efficient action against COVID-19

What does blockchain technology in healthcare offer? A special edition of OMICS: A Journal of Integrative Biology, has highlighted the importance of key digital technologies for innovation in healthcare in response to the challenges posed by COVID-19. Multiple industries are adopting blockchain technology to innovate the way they function – the healthcare industry is one of them. Blockchain technology has the potential to transform health care, placing the patient at the center of the healthcare ecosystem. Blockchain has all that is necessary to increase the security, privacy, and interoperability of health data. Vural Özdemir, MD, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief of OMICS: “COVID-19 is undoubtedly among the ecological determinants of planetary health. Digital health is a veritable opportunity for integrative biology and systems medicine to broaden its scope from human biology to ecological determinants of health. This is very important.” 

Healthcare industry and its development

It will be impossible for us to overstate the importance of the healthcare industry. What’s even weirder, it’s one of the slowest growing industries in the entire space. Compared to two decades ago, hospitals still function pretty much the same way, because of the lack of innovation. Considering that this branch of the industry has the smartest and best-educated people in the world, the idea of no significant progress makes us wonder why it is so?

Challenges that come with the use of blockchain technology

As we read in the article by Erik Fisher, Arizona State University, Tempe, ‘Blockchain for Digital Health: Prospects and Challenges’: ‘[…] By reshaping both the technological and social environment, the rise of blockchain in digital health can help reduce the disparity between the enormous technical progress and investments versus our currently inadequate understanding of the social dimensions of emerging technologies through commensurate investments in the latter knowledge domain’. Forecasts say that blockchain technology in the healthcare market will cross $1636.7m (€1513.46m) by the year 2025.

A major concern? Privacy.

A lot of storing and sharing health data is needed to make use of the newest technology. With current healthcare data storage systems, lacking top-end security, it becomes hard to have everything under control. Yet, there is a quick fix to it. Blockchain can provide a solution to vulnerabilities such as hacking and data theft. But that’s not all. A variety of benefits such as time reduction, effective communication system, enhanced operational efficiency, can be achieved thanks to it. The use of blockchain means interoperability, and enabling the exchange of medical data among the different systems securely. The blockchain technology could provide a new model for health information exchanges (HIE) by making electronic medical records more efficient, disintermediated, and secure.

Vertical and horizontal progress

However, stating that no innovations have been done in the medical field, isn’t correct either. In the end, the average life expectancy has significantly increased. What does the “lack of innovation” really mean? This industry is rife with vertical innovation. However, it always lags when it comes to the horizontal one. This diversification is crucial to understand its future roads of development. 

Which problems can be eliminated with the use of blockchain?

One of the burning problems nowadays is how to efficiently counter fake drug supplies. The use of blockchain technology for claims adjudication and billing management application will register 66.5% growth by 2025, owing to errors, duplications, and incorrect billing. In 2017, in the US, nearly 400 individuals including doctors have been convicted for $1.3bn (€1.2m) fraud. The need to mitigate these problems in the future will, most probably, encourage specialists to adopt new technologies in this application segment.