Applications of Blockchain in Healthcare Industry

Author: Harish Sankar

Introduction

In the present time, it would be hard to find a buzzword as trending as Blockchain. What is Blockchain? How does it provide disruptive solutions to transactional problems in finance industry? How can the same fin-tech solutions solve crucial problems in healthcare industry? These are the questions I intend to answer in this article.

What is Blockchain Technology?

When your cousin from USA transfers 500$ to you, the banks don’t literally put 500$ on a plane to deliver to you. What really happens is a movement of digital numbers from one account to another. Your money and identity is just data in the ledgers. The bank is an intermediary which completes this transaction. The problem is that, such a centralised system can be hacked.

Blockchain solves this by being a distributed system. Your ledger is shared in a distributed network. As the transaction is made, other miners in the network are notified. Each miner rushes to be the first to check whether the transaction is valid. The first to validate the transaction with their logic (Proof of Work) are paid salaries in Bitcoins. If other miners corroborate it, the ledger is updated. While all users can access, inspect or add to the data, they can’t change or delete it.  This makes it tamper- proof, leaving a permanent and public information trail of transactions.

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Figure 1: Types of Database Structures

Applications in Healthcare Industry:

Countering counterfeit drugs

In developing countries 10%–30% of medicines sold are counterfeited and the global market for counterfeited drugs is $ 200 billion. To stop this, we have to first identify counterfeited drug. Blockchain can solve this by assigning digital tokens to inventory. Every time the drug changes hands- from manufacturers to pharmacists to patients; records are maintained in the public information chain. This increases drug traceability and helps detect counterfeited drugs at source.

Clinical Trials Record

An estimated 50% of clinical trials go unreported, and researchers often fail to share their study results. This creates safety issues for patients and knowledge gaps for healthcare stakeholders. Blockchain-enabled, time-stamped records of clinical trials and results will address this issue while making trials tamper-proof.

Healthcare IOT

By 2020, an estimated $20-$30 billion healthcare IoT connected devices will be used globally. Blockchain-enabled solutions have the potential to bridge the gaps of device data interoperability while ensuring security, privacy and reliability. Companies such as Telstra, IBM and Tierion have already started working on this domain.

Conclusion

Blockchain is all set to disrupt the fin-tech and healthcare business environment. But are we ready for this change?



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