Blockchain technology in healthcare is developing rapidly and will continue through 2020. There are already successful uses in real estate, logistics, and, of course, payments. Distributed ledger technology can help solve several challenges in medicine. From dialing back counterfeit drug production to facilitating clinical trials, blockchain promises to drive big changes in the healthcare industry.
Better drug provenance
The problem of counterfeit drugs is a very hot topic in many countries all over the world. Counterfeit drugs cost pharmaceutical companies $200 billion annually in lost revenue.
Pharmaceutical companies can use blockchain technology in healthcare systems to cope with such a challenge. They contain all the information regarding the whole drug’s lifecycle. As a result, the probability of acquiring a fake becomes almost zero. Distributed ledger technology will help track the entire drug chain — from the manufacturer to the pharmacy. First of all, this applies to expensive drugs for use in rheumatology, hematology, pulmonology, and outpatient care.
Blockchains help keep track of transactions by recording them in a verified, chronological, and immutable manner. Such a system is well-suited to a drug labeling system. Pharmaceutical and medical technology companies track the movement of raw materials and components at every stage of the supply chain to the enterprise or patient. A provider can write information to a database using direct data entry or via the internet of things sensors.
Another challenge is a violation of storage conditions because in this case, even legal preparations cease to meet quality standards. With the help of a token, information about the medicine writes to the chain. And the end consumer can track all transactions to monitor the quality of the goods.
In addition to labeling products, blockchain can also be a tool to track the distribution of prescription drugs. A digital cross-platform system can identify and track prescription drugs. Manufacturers, distributors, and physicians who prescribe medications can join it. Thus, the pharmacist can always verify the authenticity of the prescription, and the manufacturer can verify legal sale.
Companies now use a variety of tools that help in these processes. But blockchain can solve problems that other technologies cannot cope with. For example, a company uses various programs and databases to manage supply. Using the blockchain, you can combine everything into one system.
Also, many pharmaceutical companies use centralized databases to manage their supply chains. Such databases have system administrators who are able to change or delete records. In a blockchain, entered data is immutable, which ensures more secure data transfer. Therefore, companies can reduce the human factor and identify logistical bottlenecks which cause delays and other problems.
Safe access to clinical drug trials
Managing and accessing drug testing data is a pressing issue in the healthcare industry, and especially for pharmaceutical companies. The tradeoff between confidentiality and data sharing is a huge challenge.
The fact is that most pharmaceutical companies store drug test data in centralized databases that must comply with HITRUST, ISO, HIPAA confidentiality standards, as well as various ethical and regulatory requirements.
The problem is that these centralized databases make it difficult to exchange data for the needs of researchers and drug test managers. This is where the blockchain comes into play, which helps create verifiable, immutable distributed databases for storing and accessing drug test data.
For example, the MIT Enigma system is a blockchain that uses two main cryptographic blocks that work in tandem over a peer-to-peer network of nodes. This system is a platform for the exchange of secrets, which allows researchers to maintain a high level of confidentiality and security when working with clinical trial data.
Smart contract automation
The scope of smart contracts is truly limitless. For example, they can automatically process incoming patient test results and, based on this, conclude the need to visit a doctor. They can even independently record the patient to the right specialist. With the help of diagnostic personal devices, smart contracts can analyze the patient’s health status in real-time and offer him, various behavioral models, to improve his condition.
The simplest example is the growing use of wearables, counting the number of steps made per day, monitoring heart rate during the day, recording the quality of sleep, and much more. Then you can transfer this data to the network, where you can view the entire history of recorded events.
At the same time, organizations representing the service and users of these services will act as contractors of these smart contracts.
Blockchain can help solve another problem in medicine — a check on the qualifications of doctors. An example is Hashed Health, a company that uses blockchain to exclude unlicensed doctors from the healthcare system.
Hashed Health, in partnership with Accenture, WellCare, Spectrum Health, Public Administration, the Hardenbergh Group, and HealthLink Dimensions, has created a blockchain-based credential system.
The solution is a platform that provides hospitals and other healthcare institutions with access to verified information on the qualifications of doctors, and also provides them with the opportunity to provide verified information that will be available to all other healthcare organizations.
Participating medical organizations determine specific rules and verification procedures for the certification of any type of staff, from nurses to doctors and specialists of the highest category.
Distributed medical file cabinet is the most obvious example of the blockchain usage in healthcare. With a distributed registry, no one can tamper with records, and only the doctor and patient have access to the data. Access is via a private key that decrypts the records.
Blockchain allows the patient to control his medical record, to decide for himself whom to share his medical data with. So far, there is no unified data storage system from where different organizations could receive them. Some companies are already solving this issue with the help of blockchain.
For example, the American SimplyVital Health has developed a ConnectingCare system for the exchange of patient data between several clinics. Algorithms of the system give recommendations on how to use the capabilities of different clinics as efficiently as possible to preserve the benefits of medical facilities and simplify the lives of patients. Large corporations also drew attention to the question: earlier, IBM Watson Healthcare announced the launch of studies on the use of blockchain in the transfer of personal data of cancer patients.
Better statistics and forecasting
As stated by BIS research report, in the next 5 years, the healthcare industry can save up to $100 billion annually by the end of 2025 in costs associated with a data breach, operations and IT costs, staff and support function costs, insurance frauds and fraud related to drug counterfeiting if they implement blockchain technology.
The report also shows that the value of blockchain in healthcare will reach $5.61 billion by 2025. The use of blockchain for healthcare data exchange will contribute the largest market share throughout the forecast period, reaching a value of $1.89 billion by 2025, owing to the use of blockchain to solve the most widespread problem in healthcare information systems.”
As stated in the IDC report, one out of five healthcare companies will start to use blockchain technology for medical records management and patient identification by 2020. By 2025, 55% of all medical applications will have implemented blockchain technology for business purposes. And by the same year, the estimation of the value of blockchain in healthcare will grow up to $5.61 billion from the current $170 million, according to BIS Research.
Already now we can say that all projects using blockchain technology are the first step towards integrating blockchain in healthcare. Medicine is a big field for the execution of ideas.
However, existing projects are mostly prototypes that are under development. Most of these prototypes are early-stage, which makes it impossible to see the finished product. But, many projects are open-source and open to new members.
Platforms using blockchain technology can provide an excellent opportunity for developing countries where standard technical solutions have not yet gained widespread use. Thus, it becomes possible to immediately jump one step up and implement solutions using blockchain.
The most popular area for applying blockchain technology in medicine is data storage and management. Here, the largest number of projects offering solutions for working with big data. Despite this, control of supply chains, secure exchange of data for research and development purposes, doctor qualifications verification and blockchain smart contracts implementation are other promising uses for blockchain technology in healthcare.
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