BlockChain for Healthcare

In the United States, the healthcare industry is exploding in both scope and scale. Not only did the industry’s job growth pull ahead of nearly every sector in 2018, but research breakthroughs, too, have brought new hope to people around the world. In recognition of these opportunities, 63 percent of healthcare organization respondents say they are planning to invest more than $1 million over the next calendar year into BlockChain. The figure is even higher for life sciences organizations where 33 percent plan to invest between $5 million and $10 million over the same period.

To keep pace with this growth, industry leaders need technology with accuracy, speed, and security. BlockChain use cases for healthcare applications are numerous, powerful, and capable of meeting most of the challenges the healthcare industry faces.

1. Keep more accurate & accessible medical records

Image courtesy of Pixabay

As Open Ledger’s Bryan Weinberg points out, the healthcare industry’s phenomenal growth has led to its current state—“complex and convoluted”—as Weinberg puts it. Chief among the factors that give rise to this convoluted state is medical record keeping.

Although great leaps forward have occurred, with even many rural doctors’ offices keeping electronic healthcare records, medical record keeping still has a long way to go. As Weinberg shows, medical records sit in silos, with each healthcare agency keeping its own records and no single database to keep them all.

BlockChain-stored records can be used to provide complete longitudinal health records for individuals, giving all patients more control over their own information through verifiable consent. With blockchain, every patient record reflects the best-known medical facts - from genomics data to diagnostic medical imaging — and can be reliably transferred when needed, with no need for a central gatekeeper

2. phrOS: Storing images and data securely

Half a world away, the Digital Treasury Corporation and the Taipei Medical University have released their healthcare BlockChain project, phrOS. It, too, stores all of a patient’s medical records on a secure BlockChain. phrOS not only includes data, but it also stores images. Doctors and patients can access their information with a mobile app. phrOS keeps each patient’s records private and secure with decentralized ledger technology (DLT).

3. MTBC: A blockchain solution that puts patients in control of their records

American healthcare IT firm MTBC has created a BlockChain system that for patient’s electronic health records (EHR) so that every provider that the patient sees has the same records. Instead of providers sharing records with each other, MTBC’s BlockChain solution empowers patients to be in control of their EHRs, sharing them with only the providers they want to have their health records.

4. Blockchain can ease healthcare regulatory compliance

Tracing compliance by “periodic spot inspections,” says Sean Hogan in a 2016 IBM study, is unwieldy at best. It can be a nightmare for healthcare providers and insurers as well as enforcement agencies. With BlockChain, however, the industry can not only track compliance through BlockChain’s immutable audit trail, but it can also speed up enforcement, pushing non-compliant organizations out of the picture quickly. With each transaction or piece of data time-stamped and subject to scrutiny by smart contracts, the industry can police itself in real time, eliminating the time and money that random audits cost.

5. Tracing medications to their source

Counterfeit medications continue to plague the healthcare industry, writes healthcare IT developer Constantin Yukhymenko. BlockChain’s ability to trace and time-stamp can help the industry trace any given medication to its source, eliminating the all-too-often deadly consequences of ingesting counterfeit drugs.

As Yukhymenko points out, ten to 30% of all medications sold in developing countries aren’t what they claim to be. This $200 billion-dollar industry, mainly based in China and India accounts, manufactures drugs that vary widely in quality, with 16% of them containing the wrong ingredients and another 17% of them containing the wrong amounts of ingredients.

With its ability to create immutable, time-stamped transactions, BlockChain technology ensures against altering information. Using a private BlockChain that only allows reputable drug manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to participate, healthcare professionals and pharmacies can trace each medication back to its source, ensuring that the medications that they provide will contain the proper ingredients to alleviate the patient’s condition.

6. Track equipment & medications throughout the supply chain

Not only can BlockChain trace medications back to their sources, but its ability to keep medications safe from tampering and exposures to extreme temperatures along the supply chain can assure patients that their medication is safe, as DHonor Healthtech’s Wassim Merheby points out in a Euronews interview. Using an RFID tag with an anti-tamper feature, Merheby explains, will detect any tampering attempts and inform the patient or retailer that the medication is unsafe for use.

In addition, Merheby says, patients who experience adverse reactions can report those reactions with the touch of a button, allowing healthcare oversight agencies to identify side effects more quickly to warn prescribers, patients, and insurers of possible reactions. If these reactions are frequent enough and serious enough, BlockChain’s speed can get recalls out much faster than before the technology came onto the market.

With BlockChain’s transparent, secure record keeping ability throughout the supply chain, the potential for human error or mischief lessens. Its speed and accuracy reduce costs and time, making it the perfect solution to support the healthcare industry’s growth in the coming years.

BlockChain is not a magic wand...

...As new business applications for blockchain emerge, organizations needs to ask challenging questions about reaping potential benefits.

Key challenges highlighted by blockchain adopters are related to regulation compliance and interoperability as well as sustainability of large-scale implementation over time. Therefore, health care and life sciences organizations that want to explore the value of BlockChain need to carefully learn about the broader implications for data management and governance and consider how blockchain will be integrated across the enterprise technology architecture to open up new strategic possibilities.