Will Blockchain Revolutionize Healthcare? The Truth or A Hype

chirag July 29, 2022
Will blockchain revolutionize healthcare? The truth or a hype

Healthcare is a vital part of our society, and it is constantly evolving to meet the needs of patients and healthcare professionals. In recent years, there has been a lot of hype around blockchain technology and its potential to revolutionize healthcare. But is this just a hype, or really blockchain for healthcare can make a difference?

Considering how big players like IBM, Microsoft, and Google are investing in blockchain research for healthcare, it is evident that there must be something to this technology, and it seems that it is not just hype. 

Estonian government’s e-health foundation partnered with Guardtime to store all health records on a secure, decentralized platform. This allows for better patient care, as doctors can easily access medical records from anywhere.

As reported by PR Newswire, the global blockchain in healthcare market size is expected to reach $7308.32 million by 2028, with an increased CAGR of 76.30% from 2021 to 2028.

In this blog post, we’ll look at how blockchain can revolutionize the healthcare sector. We’ll also discuss blockchain use cases in healthcare, and some challenges that need to be overcome before blockchain technology in the healthcare sector can be widely adopted. So without further ado, let’s get started!

What is blockchain in healthcare?

The healthcare industry is complex, with many different stakeholders involved in the patient care. These include doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, and even government agencies. Blockchain technology could streamline communication between all of these parties, making it easier to exchange information critical to patient care.

For example, blockchain for healthcare is used to create a secure, decentralized platform for storing medical records. This gives patients full control over their health data and makes it easier for medical professionals to access blockchain medical records from anywhere. 

Also, in the past, there have been several incidents of sensitive medical data being hacked or stolen.

As reported by GlobeNewswire, over 50.4 million patient records were breached in 2021. The WHO estimates that 30% of medicines in parts of Latin America, Africa, and Asia can be counterfeit.

However, these high numbers call for various actions to help the healthcare industry to overcome these problems and find solutions that will put an end to them. This is where blockchain technology in healthcare comes into play, as it can help reduce the risks of data fraud, increase transparency and create more efficient healthcare systems. 

Ways blockchain is transforming the healthcare industry

There are several benefits that blockchain technology brings to the healthcare industry, including data security, data monitoring, and more. In this section, we will discuss some of the crucial benefits and ways that this technology could be used to improve the industry:

Ways blockchain is transforming the healthcare industry

1. Improved data security

Blockchain is a distributed database that allows for secure, transparent, and tamper-proof healthcare data management. Blockchain technology can help solve some of the industry’s most common challenges when applied to healthcare, from data breaches to interoperability issues to fraud. 

With the implementation of blockchain in healthcare, patient data is stored in a decentralized network rather than on a central server. This makes it much more difficult for hackers to access or tamper with medical data. In addition, blockchain allows different health care providers to share data with each other while maintaining patients’ privacy.

This is because blockchain data is encrypted and can only be accessed with authorized permission. Finally, blockchain can help to reduce fraud and corruption in the healthcare industry by providing an audit trail of all transactions.

2. 24/7 data monitoring

Continuous data monitoring is a must-have criterion in the healthcare sector when it comes to the management and optimization of electronic health records. A large number of human lives are at stake every day, and even a slight margin of error can have devastating consequences.

Starting from the patient’s blood pressure readings to the doctor’s prescriptions, every bit of data related to a patient’s health needs to be monitored and accessed 24/7. However, the existing healthcare infrastructure is often unable to provide this level of data availability due to various reasons such as interoperability issues, data breaches, and so on.

This is where blockchain comes in. This technology can provide 24/7 data availability and help improve electronic health records management with its distributed nature. In addition, blockchain can help to solve interoperability issues by providing a standardized platform for data-sharing between different health care providers.

3. Improved clinical trials

As per a report, the global clinical trials market size was valued at USD 38.7 billion in 2021 and is forecasted to grow to 52.0 billion by 2026, with a CAGR of 6.1%. Various factors like the rising number of clinical trials, growing demand for outsourcing R&D, and drug commercialization are driving this market’s growth.

However, the clinical trial process is often lengthy and complicated, with numerous stakeholders involved. This can lead to inefficiencies and delays, which can impact the success of clinical trials. In addition, clinical trial data is often siloed, making it difficult to share information.

Blockchain technology has the potential to help solve these problems by providing a secure and transparent way to store and manage clinical trial data. With blockchain, each step of the clinical trial process would be recorded on the blockchain, making it easy to track data and identify errors. In addition, blockchain could be used to verify the identity of patients and doctors, ensuring that only authorized individuals have access to clinical trial data.

4. Improved drug safety

Adverse drug reactions are a major problem in the healthcare industry. They are responsible for thousands of hospitalizations and deaths each year. In addition, the cost of treating adverse drug reactions is estimated to be billions of dollars annually.

A blockchain technology database can be used to track the provenance of drugs throughout the supply chain. This would allow for the early detection of counterfeit or adulterated drugs. Blockchain is also used to track patient outcomes, allowing for the early detection of adverse reactions.

Improved drug safety is just one way that blockchain could potentially transform the healthcare industry. 

5. Smart contracts

Smart contracts in blockchain can potentially streamline several different processes within the healthcare industry. For example, they could be used to automatically process insurance claims, verify eligibility for benefits, and schedule appointments.

Moreover, smart contracts could be used to manage patient data and records, ensuring that only authorized individuals have access to confidential information. 

6. Claims and billing management

Claims and billing management is the part of the process where filing and processing of the medical claim related to the patient’s diagnosis, medications, and treatments are done. There have been several incidents where the medical files were compromised, which led to fraud and theft cases.

Blockchain makes it easy to eliminate these instances as the technology works around recording medical data and storing it in the open digital ledger in such a way that if any change is made in the information, it is visible to everyone who is a part of the blockchain.

Apart from the above-discussed benefits of blockchain in healthcare, there are several other advantages of using blockchain, like reducing medical errors, enhancing public health, and much more.

Explore our blockchain services

Now that we know how blockchain is transforming the healthcare sector, let us look into some scenarios validating the blockchain use cases in healthcare.

Blockchain healthcare use cases

While some of the blockchain use cases in healthcare are being implemented by blockchain healthcare startups, some are being piloted by large organizations to secure their business. Let us look into some real-world applications of blockchain in the healthcare industry.

Infograph

Drug traceability

Drug traceability is the ability to track a drug product throughout the supply chain from manufacturers to patients. Blockchain technology has the potential to transform drug traceability by providing an immutable record of drug product movements. Currently, most of the drug traceability systems rely on a centralized database that can be tampered with or hacked. 

A blockchain-based system would provide a decentralized, tamper-proof record of all drug product movements. This would allow regulators to quickly identify and recall counterfeit products. In addition, blockchain when combined with artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, could be used to provide real-time tracking of drug products. This would allow for a more efficient and effective response to drug shortages or recalls.

In this regard, Walmart, IBM, Merck, and KPMG had collaborated to pilot a blockchain solution to help track pharmaceutical drugs throughout the supply chain. This project aimed to ensure that the drugs are not counterfeit and meet all the quality standards.

Electronic health records

Another important blockchain healthcare use case is electronic health records. They have the potential to improve patient care, reduce costs, and save lives. However, electronic health records also come with a number of challenges. One of the most significant challenges is data security.

Currently, electronic health records are stored on central databases that are vulnerable to hacks and data breaches. 

This puts patient data at risk of being compromised. Blockchain technology has the potential to address this challenge by providing a decentralized, secure way to store electronic health records. With blockchain technology, patients can access their own medical information, ensuring that only authorized individuals could view it. Many blockchain healthcare startups are already working on blockchain-based electronic health record solutions to implement in their business. 

The UK-based blockchain healthcare startup Medicalchain developed a platform that helps store health records and share health data securely. Another example is Patientory, which is working on a blockchain-based electronic health record solution for the users to take control of their health outcomes.

Blood plasma supply chain

Blockchain technology in healthcare has the potential to streamline the plasma supply chain and ensure that all stakeholders have access to accurate, up-to-date information. Plasma derivatives are vital components of many life-saving treatments, and the current supply chain is complex, with numerous hospitals and blood banks across the globe participating in the collection, processing, and distribution of plasma. 

Unfortunately, this system is often set by inaccuracies and inefficiencies, leading to critical shortages of plasma when patients need it most. As per a report, the plasma supply chain market is growing rapidly and is forecasted to be worth $15.5 billion by 2024. The shortage of plasma in the market may have serious consequences with increased mortality rates.

Thus, blockchain has the potential to solve these problems by providing a decentralized platform on which all stakeholders can share information and track plasma shipments in real-time. By doing so, blockchain could help ensure that patients always have access to the lifesaving treatments they need.

In this regard, Canadian Blood Services (CBS) collaborated with EY Canada to use blockchain technology in order to provide real-time traceability and visibility of blood products throughout the system.

Prescription drug monitoring

Blockchain use cases in healthcare also extend to prescription drug monitoring. It is estimated that 18 million people ages 12 and older have used prescription drugs in the previous year, which is more than 6% of the US population. Blockchain technology has the potential to help solve this problem by providing a secure and tamper-proof way to track prescription drugs.

With blockchain, each time a prescription drug is dispensed, a record is created and stored on the blockchain. This would allow authorities to track the movement of prescription drugs and identify patterns of abuse. In addition, blockchain could be used to verify the identity of patients and doctors, ensuring that only authorized individuals have access to prescription drugs.

One startup working on a blockchain solution for electronic prescription solutions is BlockMedx, which is developing a platform that allows patients to store and manage their prescriptions securely. The BlockMedx platform would also allow pharmacists to verify the authenticity of prescriptions and track the movement of prescription drugs.

Medical staff credential verification

Another important healthcare use case for blockchain is medical staff credential verification. As per Statista, there are more than 1,073,616 licensed physicians in the US. With such a large number of medical professionals, it can be difficult to verify the credentials of each individual. 

So, blockchain technology is being used by an increasing number of organizations to verify the credentials of medical staff. The use of blockchain in credentialing allows organizations to quickly and securely verify the qualifications and experience of medical staff.

Moreover, blockchain provides a permanent record of credentialing information, which can be used to track the career history of medical staff. As a result, blockchain-based credential verification is becoming essential to ensuring the quality of care in healthcare organizations.

Breakthrough in genomics

The potential of genomics to improve healthcare is well-recognised. According to Emergen Research, the global blockchain in genomics market size is expected to reach USD 1,258.3 million in 2027.

One of the key challenges in genomics is data sharing. Due to privacy concerns, many patients are reluctant to share their genomic data. Blockchain technology is being used to create secure and decentralized genomic data-sharing platforms. It allows patients to share their genomic data with researchers while maintaining control over who has access to their data.

In this regard, Nebula Genomics is a leading player that is using blockchain to create a decentralized platform for genomic data sharing. It is helping to build a giant genetic database that can be used for medical research. The company allows patients to share their genomic data with researchers in return for compensation.

Another company, EncrypGen, is using blockchain to create a secure database of genomic data. The EncrypGen platform allows patients to control who has access to their genomic data and to be compensated for sharing their data.

Supply chain management

The healthcare industry is dependent on the global supply chain of medical products and services. The blockchain applications in healthcare industry helps solve several issues that are associated with supply chain management. The drug supply chain is being secured by using various technologies that include RFID and EPCIS (electronic product code information service).

The technology is used to ensure that the active ingredients used for drug creation are as per the medical standards. Also, tracking origin of the counterfeit drug and device can be done with blockchain. Various companies are developing blockchain-based solutions for the healthcare industry to solve these issues.

A US-based company, Chronicled, developed a platform that uses blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT) to track the movement of medical supplies. The Chronicled firm allows manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies to track the movement of medical supplies in real-time, ensuring that only authorized individuals have access to them.

IoT security for remote monitoring

The healthcare industry increasingly relies on the Internet of Things (IoT) to monitor patients remotely. IoT devices such as wearable sensors can collect a wide range of data, including heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure. This data is then transmitted to a central location where healthcare professionals can monitor it.

However, IoT devices are often not secure, making them vulnerable to hacking and data breaches. This is a serious concern in the healthcare industry, as hackers could gain access to sensitive patient data. Blockchain technology can help solve this problem by providing a secure way to store and share data.

In addition, blockchain can be used to create secure IoT networks. For example, the IOTA platform is designed to provide a secure environment for IoT devices. The IOTA platform uses blockchain technology to create a tamper-proof data ledger. This ledger can be used to store data from IoT devices, as well as to track the movement of IoT devices.

Now that we are aware of some of the use cases of blockchain technology in healthcare, let’s look at some of the challenges that need to be addressed before blockchain and healthcare can truly go hand in hand.

Challenges of blockchain technology in healthcare industry

Despite the potential benefits of blockchain in healthcare, there are several challenges of implementing this technology. Some of them are listed below:

HIPAA compliance and data privacy regulations

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a US healthcare law that imposes strict requirements on how patient data can be used and shared. 

Blockchain technology has the potential to help healthcare organizations comply with HIPAA and other data privacy regulations. However, it is still unclear how blockchain technology can be used in a way that complies with these regulations.

Data immutability

The fact that blockchain does not allow changes to be made once a piece of information is uploaded is both a boon and a bane. While on one hand immutability ensures heightened security, on the other, it restricts scalability.

The solution to this immutability issue would require an extension in the present architecture, enabling recording of only the edits or the one that uses clever on-chain off-chain data partitioning in the short term. 

Data size

Without a doubt, the amount of medical data that healthcare stakeholders generate is in large numbers. These numbers can easily surpass the amount of data stored in a typical blockchain architecture because of the block size limit.

Thus, a well-planned architecture will prove to be an obvious clever solution with the system’s components made by storing the on and off-chain data after carefully studying the data types, which would make sense in the respective domains. For example, combining the on-chain and the off-chain data in either the conventional RDBMS/No-SQL or in an IPFS can solve the data limit problem.

As we are progressing towards a new digital era, it is important for healthcare organizations to keep up with the latest technology trends.

Talk to our experts

Blockchain technology is one of the technologies that has the potential to change the way healthcare is delivered. So, let’s see what’s the future of blockchain technology in healthcare.

What is the future of blockchain in healthcare?

The technology will not change the healthcare industry from its core next year or even its next. But, the tech revolution is on the journey to becoming a healthcare revolution.

Blockchain is definitely maturing with the technology behind cryptocurrency and its adoption within the healthcare domain.

Four Phases of Blockchain Maturity

As you can see in the illustration above, blockchain has entered Phase 1 as several healthcare mobile apps have integrated the technology in their process to help put patients in charge of their data, better the quality of healthcare development and research, and better the service delivery.

The technology now, after having been adopted in phase 1, can now be seen making an appearance in Phase 2, where it is now being standardized – an example of this would be its integration into the healthcare supply chain.

The next step in the journey that blockchain technology has to cover is getting adopted to a much bigger extent than its present self. While there are no blockchain healthcare use cases of the near future that the technology has predicted for itself, we can assume that when you see medical boards around the world accepting the technology and setting guidelines around it, the technology would have entered Phase 3 of its maturity.

The last phase, Phase 4, where there will be optimization and integration of business processes will come when the industry, along with all its stakeholders, will move to a decentralized world.

Marking the journey that blockchain is on the route to decentralizing the healthcare industry are the blockchain healthcare companies that have adopted the technology to simplify the healthcare industry in their own way. In the future, we can expect more healthcare organizations to adopt blockchain technology to store and share data.

Wrapping Up

The benefits of blockchain in healthcare create unique opportunities to reduce complexity, enable trustless collaboration, and create secure and immutable information.

So there you have it. The verdict – blockchain has not yet but will definitely bring a healthcare evolution. If you think you are ready to imbibe the change in your organization and adopt the trending ideas, you can refer to Appinventiv, a trustworthy and reliable app development company dealing with blockchain development services to scale your business.

THE AUTHOR
chirag
Blockchain Evangelist
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