Blockchain and health, there are now several cases of use of this cutting-edge technology in medicine. However, its use is handicapped by a number of drawbacks.
Blockchain and health are not compatible at first sight. However, this technology can still be used to solve many health care problems. Indeed, the importance of blockchain in trade and investments is recognized. It also allows to to secure the transactions various. In this file, we will focus on its participation in the improvement of health in general. Thus, we will cite the cases of use of the blockchain in health, and specify to what extent it constitutes a lever/brake to health.
How useful is blockchain in healthcare?
There is nothing more secure than blockchain technology. A single data manipulation generates a block that records all the information related to the manipulation. What makes the tracing easier than ever. This technology is also essential for securing patients, among other things.
Indeed, storing, sharing and verifying data are increasingly difficult. Accessing patient records is harder for doctors than it is for hackers. Furthermore, the counterfeit wins the pharmaceutical industry without being able to trace their origin. All of this hampers data management.
This technology was introduced to remedy this. It particularly makes it possible to manage data related to care by adopting the cryptography. In addition, the blockchain also accesses the security of data and transactions in this area such as the financing of clinical trials and various research. It is estimated that the use of blockchain will increase significantly in a few years (up to 55.86 billion dollars in 2026).
Blockchain healthcare use cases
The applications of blockchain technology are constantly increasing in healthcare. We will limit ourselves to giving 5 of them, including supply, accreditation, data security, payment and health insurance.
Blockchain Technology and Healthcare Provisioning
In the United States, the DEA or Drug Enforcement Administration registered more than 9.5 million counterfeit drugs in 2021. A total that has already decreased compared to previous years. This reflects the affluence of counterfeiting in the pharmaceutical industry. This abundance is even higher in developing countries (1% in developed countries against 10% in developing countries).
The blockchain is one of the best ways to solve this problem. Indeed, it allows the traceability of all products, from their manufacture to their dispatch. To do this, an origin register is created for each medication and medical device. The register can also integrate other details such as the various costs and the waste caused by the manufacture.
Blockpharma is one of the solutions used for this purpose. Based in Paris, Blockpharma operates by scanning the drug supply chain, on prescription for now. This allows you to record a lot of information including the manufacturer and the expiry date, among others. It is the source of several seizures of counterfeit medicines in the world (up to 15%).
In medical accreditation
The counterfeiting of drugs and medical devices is not the only problem in the health sector. Accreditation can also suffer from this problem, especially since the verification various skills and titles remains a tedious process. One can count months and millions before obtaining the necessary information.
With blockchain technology, we are sure to obtain information reliable, up-to-date, and in real time. This offers care providers the possibility of checking the veracity of the information provided. The blockchain thus makes it possible to verify both the identity of the healthcare professional and their skills. The process of recruitment is therefore transparent and fast; one less worry for healthcare organizations and patients.
The accreditation start-up ArchiveCore offers the possibility of verifying accreditation documents when it comes to primary sources. The two founders had the goal of shortening the background check process for new hires into a healthcare organization. This is to minimize the cost of recruitment.
The blockchain to secure patient records
The data leaks cause considerable losses in several areas. Health is not excluded. In recent years, many patients have found themselves stripped of their medical information. Such leaks occur particularly during exchanges.
Blockchain technology provides a solution by offering a overview patient records and management shared data. The French government has, for example, set up Health Data Hub for this purpose. In this way, the patients remain informed of everything concerning their files, whether it is a search or any result. It is therefore up to them to carry out and control the sharing, total or partial, of their data with their doctors or their insurer.
MedicalChain is software that provides electronic medical records to providers. This tool is also used for other purposes such as virtual consultations and data sales.
To develop and fund clinical trials
Progress in health cannot be achieved without resorting to clinical trials. However, a single clinical trial involves a significant number of participants. We can cite investors, doctors, manufacturers of drugs and healthcare devices as well as the subjects of studies. In this long process, theerror is inevitable, just like the willful misconduct.
By integrating blockchain technology, the process becomes more transparent, thus blocking any attempt at tampering. Also, the tests will be timestamped and the related documents stored with maximum security.
However, the blockchain greatly contributes to the development of the health sector by facilitating the mode of funding of these clinical trials. In this way, investors can disburse the funds directly, without intermediary. It is the same during the reward to the place of the concerned just after their success.
The blockchain and the smart contract
The health insurance sector is also subject to many cases of refusal. If the non-respect of the contractual conditions reaches 10% of the refusals, the problem related to the information amounts to 17%. The blockchain makes it possible to remedy this health insurance problem via the smart contract.
A smart contract is presented by a coded on a blockchain which is intended for a auto run once the required conditions are met. This technique eliminates intermediaries while minimizing the costs generated by the constitution of files. For this, all patient information must be recorded in the blockchain ledger.
Blockchain and health: pros and cons
In view of these different application cases, the blockchain offers many advantages to the health sector. However, it is not free from drawbacks.
Health Benefits of Blockchain
The advantages of the blockchain in terms of health are multiple. First, it facilitates decision-making by the medical profession by providing information in real time. Blockchain is also an effective way to to secure the organization of medical data. It avoids any form of falsification in addition to accessing the speed of medical accreditation.
Furthermore, blockchain technology helps patients in several ways such asappropriation of their medical data and the secure storage of this data on mobile devices. Patients can then freely collect data related to their own health. They can also participate in research by financing without intermediary through cryptographic currency.
As for the pharmaceutical industry, the blockchain is an effective weapon for trace and detecting counterfeit drugs that harm health. It also improves the recruitment of patients able to meet the necessary criteria for clinical trials. In addition, this technology makes it possible to keep files related to clinical trials, documentation, results, etc.
Blockchain is also involved in health insurance in that it activates the management of agreements between the insurer and the insured. We are talking here about smart contract. Blockchain is also an effective tool for obtaining confirmation in a timely manner.
Disadvantages of Blockchain
Despite these multiple advantages, the blockchain is not flawless. We have detected some disadvantages which reside in particular at the level of the number of blocks created. First, the blockchain is at the origin of the delays because the transaction time increases proportionally to the number of blocks. This delays certain actions (clinical trials, payments, etc.).
Secondly, we are not unaware that such technology does not allow the permanent deletion of information. On the contrary, it creates more and more blocks to invalidate information that already exists. Also, there is great difficulty in data management once a patient’s records are bulky. This is, for example, the case during an MRI examination.
Finally, the blockchain leads to costs high in planning. The same goes for maintenance and development. Nevertheless, these flaws have not stopped blockchain technology from bringing light to healthcare. Today, it finds wide use on many levels.