Modern American business works on a simple premise. Offer the best, most cost and time efficient product and you’ll rise above the competition. If you don’t, you may be able to tread water for a while but eventually someone who does your job better will take your place.
Despite their place in American culture, a Google search on the modern state of the American mall shows how true that is. The search results are full of words like dying, rotting, and dead, but those words are a consequence. The cause can be summarized in one word.
While Amazon has certainly been the leader, the online shopping industry as a whole has turned the American mall and department store from the center of all things pop-culture to a remnant of a time before two-day shipping and online shopping carts. What happened? The eCommerce companies beat the malls at their own game. Instead of a building with dozens of stores, they built websites with thousands of stores and vendors.
And the healthcare industry could be next.
You may have heard the news that three of the richest men in the world, JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffet, and of course Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, are working together to not only lower the healthcare costs for their employees but to advance healthcare treatments for all patients to provide low cost healthcare. While it’s unclear how, healthcare providers can be sure that changes are coming to the healthcare industry. If they don’t want to have their Google searches show dead or decaying, then they need to find a way to make their services more efficient and more effective.
The journey of a thousand steps begins with one, and Blockchain could be the first step.
If you know anything about Blockchain, you know that it’s secure. For healthcare providers that’s a major plus, but Blockchain has other much more to offer the healthcare industry than just security. Thanks to Blockchain’s security features, data can be shared and stored much more efficiently, but Blockchain also allows for organizations to use smart contracts that completely cut time and money spent using other companies to oversee the execution of a contract.
The easiest way to understand smart contracts is to compare them to a cashier at a grocery store. The traditional shopping experience is that pick out your items and take them to a cashier who scans them and makes sure that you’re charged the right amount and pay the right amount before you walk out with your groceries.
Blockchain technology allows for contracts that essentially work like self-service kiosks at grocery stores. Instead of hiring a person to ensure that a transaction goes how each party agreed, a smart contract will either execute or stop the transaction agreed to by the two parties. Thanks to the fact that Blockchain data is unalterable once it has been published as a part of a blockchain, neither party can change the terms of a contract without alerting the other party.
For healthcare providers Blockchain presents a promising way to protect patient data, but the smart contracts that Blockchain opens the door to mean that receipts and invoices for procedures and care could easily and securely be shared with insurers and funds could be sent and received much quicker. That means no more manually processing documents or payments, just automated transactions that are heavily encrypted and reliable.
Simplifying contracts and security through Blockchain and smart contracts is one way that the healthcare industry could stay ahead of the curve, but they aren’t the only ones who could benefit from smart contracts.
The 2016 election confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt long standing fears that cyberwarfare is being waged between countries. While there is little evidence to show that Russia successfully targeted American ballot machines to change or add votes, the fact that they could have is frightening enough to look for more security for voting machines. Just as a smart contract can make sure that a transaction between two parties is secure and correct before completing it, smart contracts can be adapted to ensure that efforts to commit voting fraud, whether on a local or national level, are thwarted.
The possibilities of smart contracts don’t end there though. Every industry from real estate to automobile could find a use for smart contracts. The question is if the major players in every industry will adopt new technology like Blockchain before someone else does and replaces them. While adopting Blockchain and using smart contracts may not be the best option for your business right now, being aware of the possibilities that new technology offers is always a good method to stay ahead of your competitors and above water.