The current technologies used in the healthcare industry face limitations in areas 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 improve the challenges providers face, such as cost, with current intermediaries. Blockchain can connect the systems to produce enhanced insights and better assess the quality of care, giving patients a better outcome in the long run.
Promising use cases for blockchain technology in healthcare include:
1. Drug Traceability
One of the top issues in pharmaceuticals today is counterfeit drugs, that can be lethal to patients. Counterfeit drugs are not produced similarly to the real product, meaning they may not treat the intended disease. The difference in ingredients and dosage can lead to side effects that can cause death. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that “16% of counterfeit drugs contain the wrong ingredients, while 17% contain the wrong levels of necessary 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 improve product tracking as they move along from product production to the consumer. This would make it difficult for counterfeits to come into the marketplace. 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
The two biggest issues for patient data management are that each patient is unique and sharing patient information amongst the medical community is sensitive and highly regulated. 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 use of blockchain technology inpatient 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 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 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.
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(28 Nov 2017). 1 in 10 medical products in developing countries is substandard or falsified. World Health Organization.