The buzz behind Blockchain
One of the most popular buzzwords of 2021 is surely Blockchain. This disruptive technology quickly revolutionized certain aspects of digital finance. Because of its inherent security and transparency, Blockchain is already widely used in FinTech. Its various applications are present in cryptocurrencies which are mostly used for investment or digital payment. Outside of the realm of finance, Blockchain still has many potential applications. It is predicted that the technology will have a great impact on the healthcare industry.
Benefits of Blockchain in healthcare
These predictions are based on the numerous potential benefits Blockchain brings to the domain of healthcare, an industry known to be slow in adapting to new technology, cybersecurity threats and limited flow of data. Blockchain shows promise in improving several aspects of recordkeeping. And in healthcare, an accurate information and data flow can save lives. These include:
- Decentralization – In traditionally predominantly central healthcare systems, decentralization allows for multiple stakeholders to manage data simultaneously with no intermediary.
- Health data security – Technology that can ensure privacy for healthcare users whose data can be stored as digital records without fear of theft, corruption or alteration.
- Data availability and flow – Blockchain records are stored on multiple nodes. This means that Blockchain data is robust and resilient against data loss, and most importantly always available.
- Transparency and trust – Multiple stakeholders entering data into a Blockchain network can inherently trust that the data will not be changed or edited subsequently.
Based on these benefits, many possible use cases in specific areas of healthcare show great potential. Chief amongst them are electronic medical records and the pharmaceutical supply chain.
Electronic medical records (EMRs)
Digital or electronic records are used widely in healthcare. EMRs are also known as electronic health records or personal health records. Nowadays, patient information is stored in many places, scattered across institutions, hospitals and insurance houses, without joint access to a common patient database. Blockchain-based electronic health records would give doctors and nurses control over the flow of information from a single, trusted platform. Everyone would be able to see the same data. All updates would be visible to the whole network almost immediately. This means that medical teams can trust that what they learn about a patient is both accurate and up to date. Health service providers could thus easily access all patient medical data, regardless of where and when services were performed. Seeing as patients would be involved in the management of their medical records, they would also be more engaged in their health.
Researchers view Blockchain’s properties of reliability, decentralization and record immutability, as well as the technology’s potential to utilize smart contracts (automated transaction protocols on the Blockchain), as potentially beneficial for the Healthcare industry. Numerous stakeholders in the healthcare industry could profit from the improvement of storage, accessing and secure sharing of EMRs on the Blockchain. Blockchain is therefore considered as a viable technology to build healthcare platforms that empower patients to control their data.
Pharmaceutical supply chain
Another use for Blockchain in healthcare is in supply chain management. Blockchain’s data integrity offers a new way of controlling medical supplies. Common problems related to the pharmaceutical supply chain relate to counterfeit or substandard products, delivery and expiration dates as well as storage, handling and fraud. By truthfully recording every step in the supply chain process from manufacturers all the way to distributors, doctors, patients and pharmacists, Blockchain can create a new layer of trust in the quality and provenance of medicines. This way, any alteration, modification or misuse by any of the mentioned parties can be detected and checked.