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Why some healthcare companies are betting big on blockchain

Shutterstock_1094018936Quick -- what’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word blockchain? If you said bitcoin or some other type of cryptocurrency, you’re not alone.  Most people associate blockchain with cryptocurrencies, trading, and remittance platforms. But blockchain technology, which serves as a digital ledger for information, is making a name for itself in several other industries. Retail, politics, and finance worlds alike are enthusiastic about the potential of blockchain. And now the healthcare industry is starting to lay some roots. Although it may not be fully ready to implement the technology yet, here are a few ways that healthcare payer and providers plan to use blockchain and thus reasons accountants should be at the forefront of groundbreaking solutions to saving billions in healthcare.”

Confidentiality, Data tracking and Health Insurance

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A reality of life is that people move – whether from job to job or city to city. This means most people see many doctors over their lifespan. It also means that it’s harder for all parties involved (hospitals, insurance, patients) to share important data while protecting a patient’s privacy. In fact, it’s harder to share accurate data altogether.   And inaccurate data is the number one reason for denial of insurance claims. These denials cost hospitals up to $262 billion annually and are just one of the factors causing healthcare costs to increase.

Here’s how blockchain comes to the rescue. Medical records can be encrypted and shared between healthcare providers, creating a stronger and more cost-efficient healthcare ecosystem. A change in technology that would save money for hospitals and patients alike will call on accounting professionals who work for healthcare companies to to brush up on their blockchain knowledge for diligent bookkeeping and auditing.

Managing Clinical Trials

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Clinical trials are arguably the most important stage in the development of any medical invention. The point is to validate (or invalidate) the effectiveness of a product. The problem? Take your pick. Given how important they are, it’s not uncommon for fraud to occur to drive desired results. Additionally, clinical trials involve many different parties. That means it can be hard to track and control people, data is produced in large amounts, and finally, with the odds of getting caught being so low, it’s unlikely people will admit to it. All things considered, it becomes difficult to estimate just how recurring the problem is. And this is where blockchain helps again.

The technology’s tamper-proof nature provides authentic proof of existence of any document; it would be virtually impossible to enter new data that was incongruent with the existing blockchain history without getting flagged. Being familiar with blockchain will make it increasingly easy to audit clinical trial processes.

Drug Counterfeiting

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Medical drug counterfeiting creates a problem in more ways than the obvious. Yes, fake drugs can be dangerous in their quality. Their expected quantity can also be altered, resulting in potential negative consequences for the consumer.  But fake drugs bring an additional concern to the health industry: financial loss.  When people buy fake drugs, there’s less demand for the real thing — resulting in fewer sales and jobs for manufacturers. With blockchain, drugs can become traceable. Pharmaceutical companies will know exactly where a drug was distributed and, hence, where it may have been altered.

Healthcare has its eyes on blockchain and for a very good reason. This hot technology has the potential to address decade-long problems like privacy, cybersecurity, and fraud in one of the industries that is most vital to human life and evolution. And accounting firms can’t afford to wait to be familiar with blockchain as some of their biggest clients are innovating their systems with the technology. While some companies wait for more evidence of the benefits of blockchain, other frontrunners are buying in and betting big. If it means protected personal information, safer drugs and lower insurance costs, the adoption of blockchain technology in the healthcare industry is a tree that should be watered daily, if you ask me. And if that happens, if more companies adopt the technology, in every way blockchain has to offer including but not limited to cryptocurrencies, their accountants will need to be even more familiar. Might as well start now.

Mballa Mendouga, Communications — Manager, Corporation Social Responsibility & Campaigns, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

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