Blockchain in Healthcare: Three Current Trends

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On July 16th, Acumen Research and Consulting announced they expect the global blockchain in healthcare market to reach over USD 1.7 Billion by 2026. This rapid increase is due in part to the countless blockchain healthcare use cases.  Currently, trends exist in supply chain management, cybersecurity, and accessibility of data.

Securing the Supply Chain 

Pharmaceuticals, medical devices, blood products, and clinical supplies are all vulnerable to fraud and misidentification. More than 80,000 deaths and 1.7 million injuries are possibly linked to medical devices in the past decade. By using blockchain to secure the supply chain for these products, we ensure they are safe and not counterfeit. Patients can then access the degree and outcome of testing done on medical devices and clinical supplies. Smart contracts and unique identifiers in the blockchain will ensure practitioners give the correct patient the right blood. Blockchain companies like pharmaceutical supply chain MediLedger are already gaining attention from major players in the healthcare field. 

Cybersecurity Applications

In 2018, the healthcare industry experienced more cybersecurity breaches than any other industry. Researchers expect this record of 365 data breaches to increase if we don’t develop solutions. Fortunately, blockchain solves this problem. Through blockchain services like MedicalChain, patients can take control of their records. Smart contracts then release their records to approved healthcare professionals through their mobile devices. Other blockchain technologies store encrypted patient records in hospitals, storing only the permissions for the data on the blockchain. 

Accessibility of Data

The sharing of data increases the vulnerability of data to cyberattacks. Hackers can access cloud-based systems, emails, and messaging services easily. However, this data must be accessible to healthcare practitioners, researchers, and patients. Blockchain provides an elegant solution.

Sharing medical records between doctors is extremely difficult and leaves records open to cyberattacks. The city of Boston alone uses 26 different electronic medical records systems. These systems are not compatible, and information does not flow between them. Consequently, medical information about one patient can be scattered throughout multiple systems. Furthermore, healthcare professionals often miss vital information stored in another inaccessible system. Acquiring the data stored in other systems takes time that many patients do not have. Blockchain solutions like PhrOS allow patients to consent to the sharing of their data between hospitals and outside hospitals. It also creates a Smart Patient ID healthcare professionals can use to access the entire relevant medical history of a patient. 

Future Developments

Clinical trials and medical research studies are vital to the improvement of healthcare. Unfortunately, many researchers cannot find enough data to perform an accurate study. Additionally, clinical trials can struggle to find patients, and trial results are sometimes faked to get products to market more quickly. To accelerate the process of acquiring patients and data for trials or studies, blockchain solutions like the Pharmaceutical Users Software Exchange (PhUSE) allow patients to contribute their data to trials and studies. 

A New Blockchain Service

Medrec, a blockchain service that secures patient records, utilizes researchers to validate additions to the blockchain. Researchers mine anonymized data (with patient consent) by using their computing power to watch the other transactions. This provides the power necessary for the blockchain and provides researchers with valuable information. Many blockchain solutions offer tokens to users in exchange for their data, which researchers use in trials and studies. This data monetization allows patients to regain control over their data. Furthermore,  the mining of these tokens powers the blockchain. 

Blockchain stores information in a way that increases transparency, security, and efficiency. In addition, these features are vital to the healthcare industry. It allows blockchain to become the perfect solution to improve the system. 

Katie Rapley is a student at Tulane University studying Entrepreneurial Management and English. She is passionate about finding creative solutions to real problems through entrepreneurship and is especially excited about the applications of blockchain.

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