Unlike any business operation, hospitals have an extraordinary healthcare management system. Unlike any other business or finance model, hospitals are not in the business of producing widgets and distributing profits to shareholders.
Instead hospitals and healthcare delivery systems are in the business of saving lives, caring for the sick, and helping people get their normal lives back. No two patient visits are alike. ER’s are filled with rooms of people experiencing unique symptoms ranging from the common cold, to mangled bodies coming to the ER by the EMT.
Hospital and healthcare administrators are faced with the task of keeping costs under control—in the face of unpredictability. Administrators will need to ensure that revenue continues to flow, and working with suppliers to ensure they have the best quality and supply of gauze, band aids, drugs, oxygen tanks, and the list can go on, and on.
Adopting the Technical
It is no wonder then that hospitals and administrators are excited with the promise of new technology to improve a patient’s outcome, insure that the patient’s insurance will pay the bill, or manage any of the myriad of government regulation in the industry.
One technology that has come on the scene and has been so readily embraced is the number of devices connected to the Internet. In this way data on revenue, costs, or equipment function—can all be routed to the appropriate personnel, who can then determine how to best manage the incoming data.
Healthcare has a history of adopting IoT technology for many devices related to healthcare delivery, such that a new term was coined: Internet of Healthcare Things (IoHT). The IoHT refers to a “connected infrastructure of devices and software applications that can communicate with various healthcare IT systems.”
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Blockchain and IoT
When using blockchain and IoT in combination, hospital administrators will be able to reduce costs due to lost and stolen equipment and supplies—that are very expensive. There are many ways of using IoT to reduce costs in the course of daily activity. Sensors can be integrated. As an example, blockchain RFID or Bluetooth allows tracking the locations at any time, say the authors of The IoT Magazine.
Hospital administrators can lower clinic costs and make it easier for patients to be treated remotely. Patients will have the option to visit doctor, or see the doctor remotely which can lead to fewer expenses when patients who are not seriously ill can be treated from home.
In other areas of IoT and blockchain adoption, the combination is showing promise of protecting patient data.
According to Michael Walker blockchain is gaining the attention of healthcare entities because of its ability “to generate and securely distribute permanent, unalterable records of transactions.”
Medical centers, clinics, hospitals, or any entity that treats patients is subject to extremely strict privacy protection guidelines known as HIPAA and PHI. Violations can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and can even result in employees losing their job, to the most severe punishment of jail time. Thus, an entire industry has developed in ensuring compliance with patient privacy rules.
Jacob Dunn explores how with “blockchain-enabled IoT devices, end-users can control access to the data the devices collect. By granting and revoking access to sensitive medical data, users can be sure it’s being used appropriately.”
Blockchain technology has made it more difficult to hack medical devices. The ledger can “show a detailed record of when another party accesses your data.” Healthcare professional concerned with patient privacy and data security could pair blockchain into IoT or IoHT devices.
Supply chain management is a key advantage for blockchain. “When blockchain is combined with IoHT, secure, unalterable blockchains can also reduce risks by charting the chain of possession of medical devices and pharmaceuticals, allowing products to be traced through the supply chain,” says Dunn. This provides a valuable system for tracing issues in supplies from vaccinations, to pharmaceuticals, or for any device that is defective.
Walker says that healthcare professionals are taking notice. A study by the management consulting firm Deloitte—found that over a third of health and life sciences companies were planning to implement blockchain solutions in 2018. According to Jessica Kent “94% of healthcare executives report that artificial intelligence, blockchain, and other emerging technologies have accelerated the pace of innovation over the past three years.”
While the U.S. may lag behind many countries on how we pay for healthcare, clearly, it has the opportunity to take the lead in blockchain IoHT innovation. Caring for people is what healthcare is all about. Perhaps there, it can find a way to ease the pain in the costs of healthcare.