Will blockchain transform healthcare in South Korea?
The blockchain revolution seems to be making its way into almost every industry right now, and healthcare is not exempt.
A study from IBM found that 16 percent of surveyed healthcare executives reported having solid plans to implement a blockchain solution this year, while 56 percent expected to by 2020.
In South Korea, many healthcare companies, tech innovators, and others in the industry are tinkering with the possibilities of blockchain and the problems it could solve.
In fact, according to data and analytics firm GlobalData, South Korea is a key leader in the blockchain community.
Dr. Kim Hee Tae, CEO of Cube Medical, spoke about the problems in which the technology could solve during a blockchain conference in Kuala Lumpur last month.
According to Hee Tae, the main advantages of blockchain in healthcare revolve around its decentralization, security, the protection of a personal health record, a sound communication system, as well as logistic automation.
The management of medical data
Companies such as Cube Medical are seeking to improve electronic medical records and enable patients’ records to be assessed securely by any provider who needs it.
Hee Tae told Tech Wire Asia:
Inbetween the different hospitals in which the patient is getting treatment, let’s say they’ve already done the MRI, the CT scan, and everything, everything is very hassled if they do it again at another hospital.
But [patients] can actually store this [medical] information themselves using blockchain technology. And then they can share their information with another hospital.
The goal is to give patients and their medical providers access to their entire medical history. Not only will this save a significant amount of time and money, but it will also ensure that optimum care is given to the patient due to increased transparency and understanding of their health history.
According to Hee Tae, even in the situation of a patient being in such a serious accident that they cannot give consent, a fingerprint on record would allow medical providers access.
Companies such as MedRec are also enabling patients to give consent to researchers to use their medical records stored on the blockchain. Through anonymous submission, this data would be used in research, enabling the possibility of medical breakthroughs to be made faster than ever before.
Securing the supply-chain
Blockchain technology can also help fight against counterfeit drugs and medication by connecting digital systems to the physical goods themselves.
“In Korea, the medical sector is already utilizing the logistic system of the transfer of the medical appliances,” explained Hee Tae.
A common challenge in the traditional healthcare supply chain is knowing for certain that a medicine comes from the right manufacturing company.
Blockchain can address this problem by enabling the recording of all transactions and events relating to the life of a pharmaceutical product.
Supply chain management, built on blockchain technology that is both decentralized and permanent, enables any transactions to be monitored securely and transparently.
As a result, time delays and human mistakes can be greatly reduced. But the advantages don’t stop there. Leveraging blockchain technology in supply chain management also allows for the monitoring of costs, labor, and even inventory wastage.
The challenges to healthcare and blockchain in South Korea
While there are clear advantages of blockchain being used in healthcare, it’s full integration into South Korea may be put on halt for a little while longer.
It seems that the main focus of blockchain applications in healthcare is for now, on supply-chain and logistics rather than the management of personal data.
“[Hospitals] are in the midst of preparation. Because the medical information of a patient is a very sensitive area, for now, they are focusing on the medical appliances, the logistics system, and all the transactions at the hospitals,” Hee Tae explained to Tech Wire Asia.
In addition, it seems that the South Korean government has some catching up to do.
“The pace of the government is not as fast as the development of blockchain technology companies right now,” Hee Tae explained.
“The government need more time to evaluate all these things before they can fully give permission and support to blockchain technologies.”
The integration of blockchain in healthcare could revolutionize a sector that is truly in need of a technology upgrade.
With medical records still being carried out on paper, perhaps its time the world embraces blockchain technology and its many advantages.