Kaitlin Howard

By Kaitlin Howard

Kaitlin Howard is a researcher and writer producing insightful content across the healthcare revenue cycle. She has written and produced content for Zelis, Waystar, and Recondo Technology, as well as agencies. With a B.A. in English and Writing from University of Denver, Kaitlin stays current on market updates on claims management and healthcare payments, publishing a regular educational blog series on industry trends and Zelis offerings.

Some of the most challenging issues in healthcare boil down to privacy and data security.

Unfortunately, cyber risk only continues to increase as the industry moves toward digitizing and eliminating paper-based processes. But the latest in cybersecurity has the potential to alleviate many of these concerns. (Hello, blockchain, we’re looking at you.)

A bit of background

In 2021, hospital cybersecurity breaches hit an all-time high with 45M individuals affected by healthcare cyber-attacks (for reference, that’s up from 34 million in 2020).

But that’s not all.

  • The number of cyberattacks has tripled since 2018.
  • Attacks against health plans increased 35% from 2020 to 2021.
  • Attacks on third-party vendors increased 18% during that same time.

In April 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a warning about a ransomware group specifically targeting the healthcare ecosystem. The consequences? Many, ranging from hospital shutdowns to loss of confidentiality, exposure of patient data, and infrastructure damage.

But blockchain could change all that.

What is blockchain

A secure technology that tracks transactions, blockchain essentially serves as an encryption tool. This technology encrypts blocks of data and creates an impenetrable chain. Since the information can be widely distributed but not modified or copied, blockchain technology significantly reduces security risks.

Using blockchain and cryptocurrency together is an ideal pairing given the secure and traceable nature of both technologies, but they are not one in the same.

Blockchain should be looked at as a digital leader that can be used in any number of industries to securely track information and protect against fraud, including healthcare, real estate, entertainment, shipping, etc.

In truth, blockchain technology has a whole lot more to offer than cryptocurrency (e.g., bitcoin), despite common myths.

Hopefully, once the fear of the unknown begins to dissipate and blockchain becomes more widely understood and adopted, some of these myths will be overshadowed by its benefits.

Transforming healthcare

Blockchain technology has the potential to transform healthcare by providing increased security, transparency, and integrity. Yet as an industry that tends to lag others in adopting new technology, it is likely these changes will begin to occur later rather than sooner.

But the benefits are still there.

Faster processes.

It’s time to say goodbye to faxing once and for all, and blockchain can help.

Cutting out archaic, paper-based systems in favor of electronic methods is the only way forward. Blockchain can provide the same speed of transactions available in other industries in a more secure and traceable fashion.

Secure transactions.

But as technology becomes increasingly paperless, cyber attacks will only increase. (Cue groans here.)

Hospitals, insurance providers, and IT organizations need to become more secure to protect the privacy of both themselves and their patients and members. Since blockchain technology is decentralized, it is much more difficult to corrupt, providing a stronger line of defense to protect patient information and claims transactions.

Traceability and reliability.

Many prefer not to exchange important information over email because there’s no proof of receipt and emails could potentially end up floating around an endless spam folder.

Blockchain technology provides proof of delivery, receipt, and opening to ensure traceable and reliable communication and eliminate barriers to transactions. Meaning: once something is sent, it cannot be rescinded or taken back due to the distribution network.

Barriers to adoption

There are two major barriers preventing wide implementation of blockchain.

Healthcare is notoriously slow to adopt new technology.

Not only would this mass implementation require the industry to change its operating processes and infrastructure, but individual organizations would need to adopt it as well. For an industry that’s slow to the draw (think e-payments adoption), this could take some time.

There are no current vendors healthcare organizations can “buy” blockchain from.

Blockchain is a completely new technology that will require a completely new infrastructure. Payment applications and APIs must be developed to make it more user-friendly before it can be more widely adopted.

The wrap up

Healthcare CIOs interested in jumping into blockchain should monitor how other industries are leveraging this technology to learn what types of implementations are working well and what types are not.

And while we still have a long way to go, we are well on our way toward leveraging blockchain technology within healthcare.

For more information on the potential of blockchain, read Zelis CTO Kali Durgampudi’s latest article here.

To see how Zelis is preparing for the new wave of healthcare, connect with us.