The current technologies used in the healthcare industry face limitations related to security, privacy, and full ecosystem interoperability. Although several challenges must be addressed before any large scale adoption can be attempted, a healthcare blockchain could transform the industry through the secure nature of distributed ledger technology.
A blockchain-powered health information exchange has the potential to reduce or even eliminate the friction and costs of current intermediaries. By connecting the fragmented systems, blockchain could generate insights and better assess the value of care. In the long term, it could improve efficiencies and support better health outcomes for patients.
Promising use cases for blockchain technology in healthcare include:
1. Drug Traceability
Drug counterfeiting is a major problem in the pharmaceutical industry, and it can prove lethal to patients. Counterfeit drugs can be very different from the original product, meaning they may not treat intended disease. If the ingredients and the dosages are different, the product can trigger unexpected secondary effects that can lead to death. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 16% of counterfeit drugs contain the wrong ingredients, while 17% contain the wrong levels of necessarily ingredients. Furthermore, WHO estimates that “1 in 10 medical products circulating in low- and middle-income countries is either substandard or falsified.”
How can blockchain help? Blockchain technology would allow companies to track their products down the supply chain. This would create an airtight circuit that’s impermeable to counterfeit products. It would also allow stakeholders and labs to identify the exact location of their drugs should a problem arise.
2. Clinical Trials
It usually takes several years to test the tolerance and effectiveness of a product in a clinical trial. Because the outcome is critical for the future of the drug, falsified results are not uncommon. Additionally, the sheer number of people involved in clinical trials produce considerable amounts of data. This makes it difficult to track and far too easy to make mistakes— whether unintentional or not.
Using blockchain technology in clinical trials would reduce the risk of data fraud. By weeding out studies with seemingly unreliable protocols and results before they’re published, other professionals can focus on replicating more trustworthy studies, thereby facilitating further collaboration in the scientific community.
3. Patient Data Management
There are two main issues in patient data management. The first issue is that each patient is unique. Because what works for one patient may not work for another, access to complete medical records is essential in order to adapt treatment and provide personalized care. The second issue is that sharing patient information among the medical community is a highly sensitive process.
The use of blockchain technology in patient data management would provide a structure for secure data sharing. Querying the blockchain would allow healthcare stakeholders to determine the location of the desired data without revealing patient identity. One of the main advantages of adopting blockchain in healthcare is that the technology allows individual patients to have full control over who can access to his or her medical records. Through a smart contract, the patient defines conditions on when data can be accessed on the blockchain. For example, a patient can select one or more third parties who are able to grant permission to the healthcare provider in case of emergency.
Use Cases Beyond Healthcare
Healthcare isn’t the only industry that can benefit from blockchain technology. Enterprise Blockchain for Healthcare, IoT, Energy, and Supply Chain is a new five-course program coming soon from IEEE. Developed by some of the world’s leading experts in blockchain technology, this advanced program provides business use cases across key industries and sectors. It’s ideal for managers, professional engineers, and business leaders.
Yukhymenko, Constantin. (17 Dec 2018). What are the use cases for blockchain tech in healthcare? IBM.
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(28 Nov 2017). 1 in 10 medical products in developing countries is substandard or falsified. World Health Organization.