Blockchain in Healthcare

17 April 2020

alt Blockchain is one of the top trends for business, and one of the top keywords for businesses like the pharmaceutical industry and many other medical industries who want to use new technologies. We think enterprise blockchain is essential for many businesses – here’s how it can be used in healthcare.

Blockchain Technology in Healthcare

At its core, blockchain is a collective ledger, which, for example, provides information about each transaction made. Through a blockchain platform, like Exonum, this information is stored in blocks of data. One block contains a certain number of transactions. When it is full, another one is created. These blocks connect into a whole chain.

Benefits of Blockchain Technology

This type of database has many advantages. It works on the basis of a distributed p2p network, which eliminates the need for a central institution that controls digital currency transactions. Each computer connected to such a network can authenticate and forward information about the transaction. The dispersed structure of the system also means that the information stored in the blockchain cannot be tampered with. Also, a great advantage of blockchain is the encryption of data stored.
Transaction data is publicly available, but does not reveal confidential information about the users themselves. Thus, blockchain is a large, distributed encrypted database that can store a colossal amount of information.

Blockchain in Healthcare Today

Blockchain has several applications for healthcare. It can be used for supply chain monitoring – this is one of the easiest ways to integrate it into the healthcare ecosystem. Blockchain for supply chain applications has already been tested and reviewed by several experts. It could be used for the tracking the supply of drugs that are subject to increased control, such as vaccines.
The main problem today in this supply chain is that consumers of drugs cannot say with certainty who produced the drugs. Therefore, there is a high risk of fraud. In the case of using blockchain, all relevant information, from production to delivery to the pharmacy, will be stored in a distributed registry. In order to do this, a barcode could be applied to the packaging of the drug, through which a special application will be included in the blockchain. This will ensure that the information stored in the registry will remain unchanged forever, leading to higher consumer confidence.

Patient Data Storage

Patient data storage is another use case for blockchain in medicine. Today, in developed countries, such data is stored in electronic databases that are located within medical institutions. In this system, patients are not able to control their medical records and often is at risk of being lost or transferred to third parties without permission.

Blockchain solves these problems – one option is to create an application through which the patient will independently provide access to data to interested parties, enabling the user will be personally responsible for his or her information.

Smart Contracts

Smart contracts for medical insurance companies could also use blockchain. The inability to hack the system and delete data from the registry will allow insurance companies to use the information with the consent of their customers. For example, everyone can provide the necessary data to insurers for a discount.

The use of smart contracts will allow patients, doctors and insurance companies to perform a certain set of actions. The needed data would be stored in a distributed registry trusted by all interested parties, and entire process could be automated. If the records are stored in the blockchain, the smart contract can check them for fulfilling all the conditions and make a payment. If additional information is needed, the blockchain system will request it.

The Future of Blockchain in Healthcare

Drug manufacturers like Pfizer, Amgen, and Sanofi have considered different blockchain applications for healthcare. For example, they want to use blockchain technology to document their clinical trials. The idea is to create a universal database that will store information about each new medicine tested on humans.

In such a large pharmaceutical ecosystem, there is also room to use blockchain for medical documentation of individual patients participating in the study of new drugs. This is a very important issue, because some clinical trials are conducted over several months and documentation often presents a long-term issue to manage.

Using Blockchain To Streamline Processes

In the future, the use of blockchain technology will also help ensure that patient data is kept up-to-date during medical trials, speeding up the whole process of creating new drugs while maintaining the confidentiality of the patients they are being tested on.

Instead of a database focused on testing new drugs, the medical industry can create an international patient card. This is a revolutionary idea for sharing and accessing information. Blockchain is a well-designed database that can store a huge amount of information, so it perfectly works for this purpose.

Blockchain Regulations in Medicine

Experts offer different solutions for the implementation of the above cases. However, when it comes to issues related to regulation, legislators and other agencies must be involved. Given that blockchain is a distributed registry, there is always a risk that data can be improperly access. This risk is important to consider from a regulatory perspective.

Today, there is no legislative protocol for these systems – meaning there is no law that would impose restrictions on the dissemination of information about the patient. In this regard, despite widespread discussions about the benefits of using blockchain in medicine, the implementation of these projects has so far been stalled due to legislative uncertainty.

Conclusion

In general, blockchain is becoming an indispensable technology for medicine. With its help, the market be protected from counterfeit medicines, the personal data of patients can be secure, and generally information can be shared and processed with increased security and efficiency.


Elena Buzovska

Read more posts by this author.