9 March, 2020
Blockchain in healthcare was meant to be. With such a large amount of sensitive data to store, the medical field can’t go without the most reliable method of recording, storing and sharing information.
We’ve already written about blockchain use cases that can be found in every aspect of our lives: from electronic voting and supply chain management to intellectual property protection and gambling. This time around we would like to give a more detailed consideration to blockchain in the healthcare industry.
It is apparent that blockchain is steadily winning grounds in the medical field due to the variety of possible implementations. These include but are not limited to: securing patient medical records, providing a system for advancing clinical and biomedical research tracking, health claim insurance processing, and even tracking of pharmaceutical drugs and physician credentials.
Since blockchain technology provides secure data management (not located on centralized data servers), its tracking of assets can be widespread and robust. The blockchain implementations have begun to overwhelm the medical field with exponential possibilities for growth and advancement.
Most prominently, blockchain in healthcare is utilized for the secure data tracking of patient records. Blockchain systems can store the genomic sequencing data that is held in high demand by geneticists and researchers. The data can also be accessed by the patients themselves through the Electronic Health Records (EHR), informing of their genetic predispositions and possible prevention strategies.
Patient records stored in blockchain can be accessed internationally and confidentially. This is pertinent when accessing patient information for organ donations and transplants around the world. The network of patient records on blockchain can also be utilized for patients needing care while traveling to other countries. Practitioners can locate patient files through blockchain from anywhere in the world the patient has been treated at.
Based on security, blockchain technology encrypts data to closely follow HIPAA laws. Protected Health Information (PHI) would be securely stored by a “hash” created for each patient in the blockchain, creating a unique block for their data. The patient can then decide with whom the information can be shared. With patient data volume increasing every hour, a sizable, secure system is required for storing information. Companies like Guardtime, Cyph, and MedRec are already implementing blockchain methods of secure healthcare records storing and communication between healthcare providers every day.
A prolific part of the blockchain is that a multitude of research accomplishments have spawn from this system. A company called Camelot ITlab is focused on monitoring cell transportation during therapeutic studies of Car-T cell immunotherapy and providing their results on the blockchain system. These results could have massive effects on the healthcare system and medical field. Sharing research studies’ results could bring scientists closer to a deeper understanding of any hypothesis they are trying to answer.
Witty Health company demonstrates another successful implementation of blockchain in healthcare with their OncoPower program. Through blockchain technology, OncoPower can offer Bitcoin currency compensation to their research trial patients. Patients can easily report genomic data, side effects, medication lists, and lifestyle choices while undergoing specific tumor studies. Oncologists through this program can also be rewarded with cryptocurrency for their accomplishments in monitoring trial patients and adding content to chat discussions on forums in the blockchain. Such a system encourages multiple stakeholders to participate in studies and to find therapeutic outcomes.
Advancements in research will further improve with storing genome sequencing data on blockchain. Medical professionals can store fetal genome sequencing data of genetic predisposition studies on the blockchain and provide access to patients, their families and researchers to further understanding of prevention and therapy. These studies can improve prevention therapies and treatment options for diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer, and heart disease just to name a few. Companies like Gem Health are working on processes to use collaboration with other healthcare programs to further the advancement in research using blockchain technology.
Blockchain in the healthcare industry is expected to have a growth of over $5 billion by 2025. The expectation is for blockchain to support major strides in cancer and other disease research, which would boost the economy with new treatment options.
The economy will be revolutionized by currency transactions between blockchain devices. Transactions are more effective and easily accessible on mobile devices. This “machine economy” has been in progress and developing into an efficient process for years. It’s only a matter of time before this automation is widespread. The genomic sequencing costs alone would contribute greatly to economic growth. Thanks to the blockchain technology, genomic sequencing is not only more efficient, but also more affordable, meaning many laboratories would opt to use blockchain for that purpose.
Together with cryptocurrency, blockchain can be utilized to create donation services for health crises such as the Ebola outbreak in 2014. Philanthropists would be able to provide funding and support for global health issues in a charitable fashion.
While insurance typically does not come to mind when considering a blockchain system, the opportunities that are available for health insurance claim processing are numerous. Patient data in health insurance claims would be accessible wherever the patient would require care. This method could ease the process of insurance deductible updates, co-pay information, and overall claim processing. Medical staff would be able to access information that might potentially be only accessible within the insurance company systems. Of course, the insurance information would need to be shared securely with confidential coding, yet the blockchain system has safety features that prevent any undesirable data alterations to be made.
Here is another use case of blockchain in healthcare. Medication tracking through blockchain can remove counterfeit, illegitimate and harmful drugs from the pharmaceutical industry. The U.S. government and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are working on a plan to implement this effective technology in the next ten years. Tracing these drugs through the blockchain system can prevent major health disasters while curbing quality control issues in the pharmaceutical world.
Medical audits are more accurately processed with ease in the blockchain system when it comes to counterfeiting. These audits help locate counterfeits occurring both in developing and developed countries.
Physicians, nurses, and research technicians alike would take advantage of the blockchain system of credential storage. Staff can chronologically update their credential files within the blockchain. This system creates ease of use for staff allowing them to focus on their patients and research instead of paperwork. Continuing education credits would automatically store and save under the staff member’s file. This process would simplify on-boarding human resource practices and allow practitioners to grant special access regarding their research to other viewers.
In conclusion, blockchain in healthcare is a developing necessity that creates an ease in the medical field, especially when it comes to securely storing patient data and advancing medical research. The economy may reap the benefits of the blockchain system, while practitioners will gain simplification of some of their most difficult day-to-day processes.
The blockchain technology will continue its emergence in the healthcare industry in the next few years and will surely have a vast effect on our lives, economy, and the whole world in the long-term.
Written by Andrea Faith Tyrrell.