Blockchain & Healthcare: New Digital Health Ecosystem

Blockchain is a distributed ledger system for recording and storing peer-to-peer transactions. The encrypted transactions are collected together in blocks, which are then linked together (chained). The data are immutable and there is no central authority that controls the network. Instead, all of the transactions are shared among the users of the network to ensure decentralization.

Blockchain and finance are oftentimes used together and the two are closely connected. It isn’t surprising, as the most popular use of blockchain technology is digital finance and cryptocurrencies. Nonetheless, there are a variety of other areas where it can be applied. One of such is healthcare. 

Blockchain in healthcare

Firstly, blockchain can be used to ensure the security of patient data. Keeping the data on a blockchain secures it from corruption, while providing decentralization and transparency. The identity of patients is protected by secure and complex algorithms, in order to protect the sensitive data.

Additionally, the decentralization of blockchain also improves the communication between healthcare professionals, as it creates one system where the patient data is stored and that is easy and safely accessible by anyone who is involved in the treatment process. In such a way, the possibility of medical mistakes is lowered and the doctors can diagnose and treat patients more efficiently and effectively.

There are already some companies on the market that provide the aforementioned functionalities. An example of such a company is Medicalchain, which uses blockchain for management and protection of patient data. In 2018, the company released a telemedicine platform MyClinic.com, where patients can schedule a video appointment with their doctors and pay with crypto-tokens “MedTokens”. Another worth mentioning use case is the government of Estonia, which in 2016 began a project that uses blockchain technology to secure the privacy and integrity of patient health data. 

Blockchain can also be applied to the supply chain management system, to ensure the safety of the medicine. A ledger for a drug can be created, which defines its point of origin, and continues to record the data during each step of the shipping process, until it has been received by the consumer. Such transparency of the process provides security and allows consumers to know details about the medicine that they are taking.

A French company Blockpharma has created a solution with the use of blockchain that tracks the supply chain and points of shipment, which allows for verification of the medicine and preventing the use of counterfeited drugs. 

Lastly, research and development of healthcare can also benefit from blockchain technology. Especially in genomics, where blockchain can be used to store huge amounts of genetic data. It is already even possible to sell personal and encrypted genetic information, in order to enrich the database used by scientists. A blockchain platform created by EncrypGen can be used to store, share and search for genetic information. It also enables buying and selling of the data, which can be then used for development of the industry. 

Conclusion

To sum up, blockchain technology can be utilized across many industries. In healthcare, blockchain has the potential of creating one ecosystem that improves the privacy and security of patient data, while increasing the interoperability and enhancing the communication between patients, doctors and other stakeholders.

Blockchain can also ensure the safety of the medicine, as well as facilitate the development in the industry. However, currently there are some obstacles that are hindering the widespread use of blockchain in healthcare. Scalability is one of the main challenges, but also the full integration between different blockchain systems is a problem that needs to be solved. 

The future effects of blockchain in healthcare are vast; however, further study and data 
on the effectiveness of blockchain in the field is required before mainstream adoption occurs.

 

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Sources

 

Daley, S. 2020. 15 EXAMPLES OF HOW BLOCKCHAIN IS REVIVING HEALTHCARE. URL: https://builtin.com/blockchain/blockchain-healthcare-applications-companies 

Einaste T. 2018. Blockchain and healthcare: the Estonian experience. URL: https://e-estonia.com/blockchain-healthcare-estonian-experience/

Deloitte. Blockchain: Opportunities for health care. A new model for health information exchanges. URL: https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/public-sector/articles/blockchain-opportunities-for-health-care.html

Votis, K. 2020. Blockchain and Healthcare applications. URL: https://www.eublockchainforum.eu/events/blockchain-applications-healthcare