How is Blockchain impacting the healthcare industry?
Blockchain as a technology has become quite a popular phenomenon today. Dubbed as one of the revolutionary inventions of the 21st century, the blockchain technology has gradually disrupted almost every other industry on the planet, and the healthcare sector is no exception.
Being a secured and reliable digital ledger, blockchain holds great potential to transform healthcare in the years to come. Mainly, the technology can improve three major issues persisting in the industry for decades:
- -Drug traceability
- -Patient data management
- -Clinical trials
Let us see how the blockchain technology can help healthcare improve in the abovementioned three areas.
Improving drug traceability
The pharmaceutical supply chain is apparently a less secure system.
After the first stage of the drug manufacturing process, the production stocks are transferred to the wholesale distributors who then transfer it to the retail companies that eventually sell it to the consumers. Unfortunately, there is a bigger risk of counterfeit drugs being entered in this cycle easily.
Substandard medication or counterfeit drugs are the biggest problems the pharmaceutical industry has to deal with on a regular basis. Figures from the Health Research Funding Organisation  suggest that the counterfeit drug market is worth $200 billion and these fake medicines sold on the internet account for nearly $75 billion.
Blockchain can help solve many issues in the drug supply chain at once.
According to a PwC report , every transaction carried out between companies in the supply chain is recorded or validated on the blockchain. This streamlines the transfer of data, allowing recipients of the products to validate their origin with greater certainty. Moreover, this process also makes it easier for regulators and suppliers to announce a recall.
Implementation of blockchain in supply chain means every party involved in the cycle guarantees the integrity of a supply chain against fake or substandard drugs.
Patient data management
Healthcare systems around the world have witnessed many high profile cyber-attacks over the last few years. One of the most affected victims was the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) falling prey to the WannaCry ransomware in 2017. This malware was so devastating that it attacked over 300,000 computers globally.
In 2018, the hacking of America’s HealthCare.Gov website exposed personal data of nearly 75,000 users and Singapore’s healthcare data breach affected more than 1.5 million users. The list of data breaches and ransomware attacks in the healthcare sector is very long. Combining immutability and decentralised nature of blockchain will help create data management systems that are absolutely resilient to cyber-attacks as they are not affected from a single point of failure.
Healthcare institutions can store medical records containing sensitive personal information on blockchain-based systems. Medical records are not the only source of patient data. As the world of IoT is developing at an unstoppable pace, wearables have also become another important source of information that can be used in patients’ interest to track their activities, set targets, and adapt treatments. All this is easily achievable via smart contracts.
Pharmaceutical companies spend in billions on clinical trials and a non-conclusive outcome may result in huge losses to every party involved in the process, right from the investigator to the consumer. Due to increasing costs, researchers today have to face challenges of reproducing accurate data, efficiently sharing research and personal data, privacy concerns and patient enrolment strategies.
Blockchain can help overcome all those challenges.
The distributed computer network platform used by blockchain allows databases to store time-stamped transaction records and documents. Every node in this network processes and verifies every single data entry, which then archives all the transactions. The advantage of storing data in blockchain is that it is impossible to get hacked as the ledger is not maintained on just one repository — it is spread throughout different databases in duplicate copies. These verification requirements make sure that the stored data remains untampered and unchanged.
Blueprints of genetic information, patients’ medical data, and other valuable results and information from the clinical trials remain safe and secured in blockchain.
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