The current health care system around the world seems to be quite complicated. Its lack of coherency and the existence of some inexplicable processes makes it challenging for doctors to offer their patients the best care. Eventually, these factors negatively affect the care that doctors deliver.
These challenges have made medical professionals strive relentlessly as they try to coordinate health care in an infrastructure that is barely designed for it. Physicians and their staff throughout the world struggle attempting to coordinate care via antiquated strategies. Some of the antiquated methods are achieved by fax, courier, face-to-face, or phone.
In the medical field, it is mostly a matter of life and death and communication is important. However, doctors must deal with these sometimes unreliable methods that may lead to dangerous miscommunication.
For example, the situation in the US serves as a perfect case study of health care coordination hiccups. This case reveals that even the high-income countries that may have the highest standards of living also face challenges in the health sector. In such countries, 1 out of every 4 patients gets referred to specialists who primarily rely on data given to them by the referring physicians. The specialists use this data to diagnose and treat the patients.
Studies show that up to 70% of specialists rate the data and information they get from other physicians as fair or poor. That miscommunication between caregivers accounts for up to 80% of serious medical errors. Moreover, some of the medical diagnostic results and medical records usually get lost somewhere in the transferring process.
Some information is lost either during the transfer from the labs to providers and the external practices. Other information may be lost within the hospital departments. All these data losses result in the inability of the involved parties to coordinate and dispense punctual and accurate medical care from the service providers.
In the case of the patients, this constant lack of care coordination leaves them contending with poor continuity of care. Also, lack of communication among the care providers subjects the patients to delayed diagnoses, unnecessary testing, inappropriate treatments, and preventable injuries or death.
Lack of coordinated care also makes it hard for patients to follow ethical treatment plans. This takes a major toll on individuals with chronic conditions needing complex care plans, continuous communication and monitoring. When service providers cannot guarantee that patients can understand and follow all care plans, patients will rarely follow the plans on their own.
Thus, poor communication may cause 20–30% of prescriptions for chronic health conditions never being filled. In some cases, half of the prescriptions may not be taken as prescribed.
The costs associated with poor coordination was about $25–$45 billion a year in the United States alone in 2011. That amount continues to rise with Americans spending $3.65 trillion on health care in 2018. The amount translates to $11,212 per person according to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The data reveals:
The average life expectancy in the United States is about three years shorter compared to the other high-income countries. Also, the level of health care spending in all sectors of America is the highest worldwide by far. Nevertheless, high spending has not translated into the best health outcomes.
Finally, infant mortality is high standing at 5.8 deaths per 1,000 live births compared to 3.6 per 1,000 in the rest of the developed nations. Thus, throwing more money at the challenge of poor patients coordination seems not to be the solution.
How Blockchain Will Change Health Care Delivery
The blockchain technology can make it easier to bring patients in the center of health care. Also, it can make health care more affordable, user-friendly, and accessible for all. The technology’s value comes mainly from its underlying characteristics as a store of immutable data that supports collaboration with instantaneous and secure information sharing.
Due to these qualities and characteristics, care coordination on a blockchain network can enhance control of health care. It can put health care services firmly into the hands of the patients and their caregivers. Hence, it will lead to fast care delivery and improved health care outcomes.
The ideal blockchain-based care coordination model can create a functional channel. That channel can link patients, care coordinators, family members, care providers, and other permissioned parties. All the involved entities and individuals can then coordinate care punctually. Moreover, the blockchain system can synchronize everyone involved in a patient’s health care journey.
A blockchain-based care coordination at its standard level allows authorized parties to quickly and readily access medical data whenever and wherever they need to guarantee timely health care service delivery. All the parties can access the data they need at any given time without needing disclosure of the information by a separate entity.
Information is available instantly and updated for everyone to see as soon as any changes are made by any user. Blockchain’s decentralized nature guarantees traceability, accountability, and transparency in the storage and retrieval of patients’ medical data. That, in turn, will simplify the planning and execution processes involved in health care service delivery.