Blockchain in Healthcare Industry: Present and Future

As we know, blockchain technology is being actively implemented in different spheres of the real world — from finances (DeFi, banking) to the fashion and agriculture sectors. The healthcare industry is facing many challenges, including rising costs, data breaches, and lack of interoperability. Blockchain technology has the potential to address these issues by providing a secure and decentralized way to store and share health information.

Changelly continues to provide a series of articles about how blockchain technology can be applied to our daily routine and, what’s more important, how DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology) can improve it. In this article, we will explore the present and future of blockchain in the healthcare industry. We will discuss the benefits of using blockchain technology in healthcare, the current use cases, and the potential future applications. So, let’s dive into the world of blockchain in healthcare and see how it can transform the industry for the better.

What Problems Can Blockchain Solve in Healthcare?

Blockchain technology has emerged as a promising solution for a variety of healthcare applications, ranging from remote patient monitoring to managing pharmaceutical supply chains. As healthcare costs in the United States continue to rise, accounting for almost 20% of the GDP in 2021, there is an urgent need for increased efficiency and innovation to address high hospital expenses, inefficient practices, and frequent data breaches.

Here are some key areas where blockchain can bring about significant improvements:

  1. Access to Electronic Health Information: Blockchain can provide a secure, decentralized platform for storing and managing electronic health records (EHRs) in a digital ledger. This enables seamless access to a patient’s medical history by authorized healthcare providers, leading to better-informed decisions and improved patient care.
  2. Enhanced Data Access and Security: The healthcare industry often faces challenges in data security and privacy. Blockchain networks, particularly private blockchains, can ensure the security and privacy of electronic health information through their encrypted, tamper-proof ledger systems. This can help prevent data breaches and protect patient privacy.
  3. Improved Interoperability: A blockchain-based system can help overcome the challenges of interoperability among different healthcare systems, allowing for seamless data exchange and integration. This can result in a more connected healthcare ecosystem, improving the efficiency and quality of care.
  4. Patient Empowerment: While blockchain technology is often associated with digital currencies, its applications extend far beyond that. Blockchain can enable patients to have more control over their health information by providing them with secure access and the ability to grant or revoke consent for data usage. This can empower patients to manage their health data actively and participate in decisions about their care.
  5. Patient Consent Management: Managing patient consent for data sharing, treatment, and clinical trials can be complex and time-consuming. Blockchain can facilitate secure and efficient management of patient consent, streamlining processes and ensuring compliance with regulations.
  6. Micropayments and Insurance: Blockchain smart contracts can automate processes related to health insurance claims, reimbursements, and micropayments, reducing administrative burdens and ensuring timely payments to healthcare providers and patients.
  7. Streamlining Electronic Health Records Management: Blockchain technology can help streamline the management of electronic health records, reducing errors, duplication, and inconsistencies. This can lead to more accurate and reliable patient data, improving patient care and outcomes.
  8. Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Management: Blockchain technology can enhance the traceability and transparency of the pharmaceutical supply chain, ensuring the authenticity of medications and medical devices. This can help prevent counterfeit products from entering the market and improve patient safety.
  9. Clinical Trials and Research: Ensuring data integrity and transparency is essential in clinical trials and research. Blockchain technology can help maintain an immutable record of clinical trial data and research findings, promoting transparency, trust, and collaboration among researchers and institutions.
  10. Credential Verification: Verifying the credentials and qualifications of healthcare professionals can be a cumbersome process. Blockchain can provide a secure, tamper-proof platform for storing and verifying professional credentials, making it easier for healthcare organizations to hire staff and verify their qualifications.

Both public and private blockchain protocols can be used in healthcare, depending on the specific application and requirements. Public blockchains can offer more transparency and accessibility, while private blockchains can provide enhanced security and control over data access.

Now let’s take a closer look at the most important blockchain applications.

Medical Supply Chain Management

Blockchain technology has been making significant strides in various industries, and the healthcare sector is no exception. One area where blockchain has the potential to revolutionize the industry is medical supply chain management. Medical supply chains are crucial components of the healthcare ecosystem, ensuring the smooth delivery of medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and other essential supplies to health systems and medical institutions. With the integration of blockchain technology, these supply chains can become more efficient, transparent, and secure, bringing about a range of benefits to the healthcare sector.

Medical devices, such as surgical instruments, diagnostic equipment, and implantable devices, play a vital role in modern healthcare delivery. However, the supply chain for these devices can be complex, involving multiple stakeholders and potential risks, such as counterfeiting, theft, and human error. Blockchain technology can mitigate these risks by providing a tamper-proof, decentralized, and transparent record of each device’s journey from manufacturing to the end user. This increased transparency can help health systems and medical institutions better manage their inventories and ensure that they have access to high-quality, authentic medical devices.

Health systems encompass various organizations, including hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies, that work together to provide healthcare services. These entities rely on well-functioning supply chains to deliver the necessary pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and other supplies to maintain optimal patient care. By leveraging blockchain technology, health systems can benefit from increased visibility into their supply chains, enabling them to track and authenticate products more effectively. This, in turn, can lead to better decision-making, reduced waste, and improved patient outcomes.

Medical institutions, such as hospitals and research facilities, are also major players in the healthcare sector. These institutions depend on reliable pharmaceutical supply chains to provide the medications and medical supplies necessary for patient treatment and research. Blockchain technology can offer greater traceability and security within these supply chains, ensuring that medical institutions receive authentic and high-quality pharmaceutical products. Moreover, the decentralized nature of blockchain can facilitate better communication and information sharing among various stakeholders in the supply chain, such as manufacturers, distributors, and healthcare providers.

The pharmaceutical supply chain is a critical component of the healthcare sector, responsible for the development, production, distribution, and delivery of medications to patients. Blockchain technology can address several challenges that have long plagued the pharmaceutical supply chain, such as counterfeit drugs, product recalls, and inefficient tracking systems. By implementing blockchain-based solutions, stakeholders in the pharmaceutical supply chain can create a more secure, transparent, and efficient system that benefits both healthcare providers and patients.

Healthcare Data Security

Blockchain’s distributed ledger technology has proven to be useful in various healthcare-related applications, such as securely transferring patient medical records, overseeing medicine supply chains, aiding genetic research, and managing disease outbreaks. It has the potential to alleviate industry challenges by reducing healthcare expenses, safeguarding patient data, and improving health outcomes.

The use of blockchain technology facilitates accurate data sharing and eliminates errors by overseeing the distribution and synchronization of information among different EHR providers through a consensus mechanism.

Blockchain’s role in healthcare data security has gained significant traction due to the increasing prevalence of security issues in the industry. Between July 2021 and June 2022, there were 692 large healthcare data breaches, resulting in the theft of credit card and banking information, as well as health and genomic testing records. Blockchain technology has the potential to be highly effective in security applications due to its ability to maintain an immutable, decentralized, and transparent log of patient data. Additionally, the technology provides privacy by concealing individual identities with complex and secure codes that protect sensitive medical data. Its decentralized nature allows for quick and secure sharing of information among patients, doctors, and healthcare providers.

Several ways in which blockchain can secure health records include:

  • Decentralized data logs that are incorruptible and transparent
  • Complex codes that protect individuals’ identities and data
  • Rapid transfers that minimize the window in which data is vulnerable

Blockchain-based medical records can also help address inefficiencies in the healthcare system, as factors such as failure of care delivery and care coordination contribute to up to 16% of national healthcare spending in the U.S. The time-consuming process of accessing a patient’s medical records strains staff resources and delays patient care. Blockchain technology, through its decentralized nature, creates a unified ecosystem of patient data that can be easily accessed by doctors, hospitals, pharmacists, and other treatment providers, leading to improved diagnoses and personalized care plans.

Crypto Price Alerts
Get daily alerts on price changes of the top 10 cryptocurrencies.

Blockchain in Healthcare and Genomics: Unlocking the Potential of Personalized Medicine

Rapid advancements in genomics have opened up new horizons in healthcare, allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of human health and disease. The cost of genome sequencing has plummeted from between $100 million and $1 billion in 2001 to below $1,000 in 2021, making it more accessible and affordable for both researchers and patients. Thanks to its unique features of security, decentralization, and immutability, blockchain technology has emerged as an ideal solution for managing the vast amounts of genetic data generated in the genomics industry.

The application of blockchain technology in genomics can address several challenges and unlock the potential of personalized medicine. Here are some key ways blockchain can contribute to the growth and development of genomics in healthcare:

  1. Secure Storage and Management of Genetic Data: The sensitive nature of genetic data demands robust security and privacy measures. Blockchain technology can provide a secure, tamper-proof platform for storing and managing genetic data, ensuring the privacy and integrity of this valuable information.
  2. Facilitating Data Sharing and Collaboration: Effective data sharing and collaboration among researchers, healthcare providers, and patients are crucial for the advancement of genomics research and personalized medicine. Blockchain can enable secure, efficient, and approved sharing of genetic data, promoting better collaboration and fostering innovation in the field.
  3. Creation of Genomic Data Marketplaces: Blockchain technology has the potential to facilitate the development of genomic data marketplaces, where individuals can sell their encrypted genetic information to create a more extensive database. This allows researchers to access a larger pool of valuable data, accelerating the pace of discovery and development in genomics.
  4. Streamlining Intellectual Property Rights: The management of intellectual property rights (IPR) in genomics research can be complex and time-consuming. Blockchain can help streamline IPR processes by maintaining an immutable record of data ownership, usage rights, and licensing agreements, promoting transparency and reducing disputes.
  5. Enhancing Patient Engagement and Consent Management: Blockchain technology can empower patients to take control of their genetic data by providing them with secure access and the ability to grant or revoke consent for data usage. This enhances patient engagement and ensures compliance with privacy regulations.
  6. Advancing Personalized Medicine and Therapeutics: The secure storage and sharing of genomic data through blockchain can enable researchers to develop more targeted and personalized treatments based on an individual’s unique genetic makeup. This has the potential to revolutionize the way healthcare is delivered, leading to improved patient outcomes and reduced healthcare costs.

In conclusion, the integration of blockchain technology in healthcare and genomics has the potential to transform the way genetic data is stored, shared, and utilized. By offering secure data management, facilitating data sharing and collaboration, creating genomic data marketplaces, streamlining IPR, enhancing patient engagement, and advancing personalized medicine, blockchain can play a pivotal role in unlocking the full potential of genomics research and its applications in healthcare.

Blockchain in Healthcare: Use Cases

Let’s observe several successful cases when blockchain and healthcare are here to help achieve many groundbreaking results.

1. FarmaTrust

FarmaTrust is developing a fast, scalable, and secure blockchain solution that automates all stages of pharmaceutical product tracking in the supply chain.

The Zoi blockchain system created by the company helps minimize the costs and resources needed to monitor drugs fully. The platform integrates with existing corporate software solutions. It helps reduce the likelihood of destabilization of existing business processes — for example, due to disruption or delay in the supply of goods.

The platform uses a decentralized registry to store data on tracking medicines’ origin, smart contracts to automate legal product delivery, and artificial intelligence to predict drug needs. The platform provides services to governmental bodies and regulators, as well as to pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies, hospitals, etc.

2. BurstIQ

BurstIQ is a blockchain-based project that offers decentralized solutions for the health industry. BurstIQ believes that users should own and manage their data, be ensured that their data is safe, and be able to help society with their data. That is why BurstIQ creates a proper environment for bringing its vision into reality.

The platform provides all the necessary tools you need for health information exchange, enterprise data networks, care coordination, national health record networks, and much more. Among BurstIQ’s partners are the Chamber of Digital Commerce, Hitachi Vantara, Tribe Health, etc.

3. Nebula Genomics

Nebula Genomics utilizes distributed ledger technology to streamline genetic research by removing intermediaries and reducing costs. This approach helps create an extensive genetic database while also providing a secure platform for users to sell their encrypted genetic information. This can potentially save pharmaceutical and biotech companies billions of dollars in genetic data acquisition expenses.

4. SHARECARE

Sharecare utilized their expanded engineering knowledge gained from acquiring doc.ai in 2021 to create a decentralized research platform called Smart Omix. For researchers, this platform streamlines the process of developing and launching mobile studies as well as collecting patient data through wearable devices. Smart Omix also includes electronic consent and patient record storage to improve the efficiency of the research process.

5. Medicalchain

Medicalchain’s blockchain technology preserves the integrity of health records while creating a single, verifiable source of data. Doctors, hospitals, and laboratories can request patient information securely, with a clear record of origin that safeguards the patient’s identity from external sources. By utilizing blockchain technology, Medicalchain ensures that healthcare data is accurate, consistent, and accessible to authorized healthcare providers.

This streamlined access to patient information not only enhances the efficiency of healthcare services but also enables more accurate diagnoses and personalized care plans. As a result, Medicalchain’s blockchain-based approach holds the potential to transform the way patient data is managed and shared within the healthcare industry.

You may also like our list of public companies exploring blockchain’s potential.

Future of Crypto and Blockchain in Healthcare

The future of blockchain in healthcare looks promising, with an increasing number of organizations and stakeholders recognizing its potential benefits. The adoption of blockchain technology is expected to grow in areas such as electronic health records management, drug supply chain management, patient data security, and collaboration among healthcare providers. As more healthcare organizations embrace blockchain-based platforms, it is anticipated that the medical industry will see improved efficiency, reduced costs, and enhanced patient care. Additionally, the integration of blockchain with other emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, IoT, and telemedicine can further revolutionize the healthcare landscape.

Healthcare is one of the most important sectors of our lives. And once blockchain steps into the industry fully, we can get a transparent, globally available, and secure network that will organize medical data flawlessly.

Of course, when it comes to introducing new technology, economic feasibility plays a key role. But in medical blockchain start-ups, everyone wins — not only patients but also clinics and insurance companies.

FAQ

What is an example of a healthcare blockchain?

An example of a healthcare blockchain is the Avaneer Health consortium, which is a blockchain-based platform developed by a group of leading healthcare organizations. The platform aims to improve data sharing and collaboration among various stakeholders in the medical industry. Avaneer Health leverages blockchain technology to enable secure and efficient data sharing, streamline processes, and enhance patient care. This example demonstrates how the adoption of blockchain in healthcare can lead to innovative solutions and better patient outcomes.

Which countries use blockchain in healthcare?

Many countries are exploring the use of blockchain technology in healthcare, but some notable examples include the United States, Estonia, and the United Kingdom. In the United States, various healthcare organizations, start-ups, and pilot projects utilize blockchain technology for electronic health records, drug supply chain management, and data security. Estonia has been a pioneer in adopting blockchain technology for securing health records and e-prescriptions in its national healthcare system. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service (NHS) has shown interest in using blockchain technology to improve data sharing and security.

Which pharma companies use blockchain?

Several pharmaceutical companies have started exploring and implementing blockchain technology to address various challenges in their operations. Some notable examples include:

  • Pfizer: The company has been involved in blockchain pilot projects, exploring its use in the drug supply chain management and clinical trial data management.
  • Novartis: Novartis has been researching the potential of blockchain in areas like supply chain traceability, drug counterfeiting prevention, and clinical trial data sharing.
  • Merck: Merck has been investigating the application of blockchain technology for supply chain management, drug authenticity, and patient engagement.
  • AstraZeneca: AstraZeneca has shown interest in utilizing blockchain for supply chain management, patient data security, and research collaboration.

These companies’ interest in and adoption of blockchain technology indicate a growing trend in the pharmaceutical industry to leverage innovative solutions for improving efficiency, data management, and patient care.


Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this article are not financial or investing advice. The information provided in this article is the author’s opinion only and should not be considered as offering trading or investing recommendations. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. The cryptocurrency market suffers from high volatility and occasional arbitrary movements. Any investor, trader, or regular crypto users should research multiple viewpoints and be familiar with all local regulations before committing to an investment.