Since the blockchain technology has emerged, it has been hypothesized that there were many more cases of use than serving as the place where cryptographic transactions were possible. After the emergence of Ethereum, developers began to focus more on the blockchain itself. Soon, it turned out that this technology has the potential to reach almost any industry in the modern world and even completely revolutionize some.
While there is a lot to talk about the potential impact of blockchain technology on the world as a whole, this time we will only focus on one aspect, and this is health care.
Initially, it may seem strange that this type of technology can have a significant impact on health care. However, there are many important use cases that had already been discovered in this area, with many of them probably coming in later years. To explain this, we will examine 3 large use cases blockchain has in modern health care.
1) Traceability of drugs
Drugs are a big problem in the health and pharmaceutical industries. Drug counterfeiting is particularly annoying in developing countries, where it can include anywhere from 10% to 30% of drugs sold. The market for counterfeit drugs is estimated to exceed $ 200 billion a year, with around $ 75 billion going on the Internet.
Reports state that over 60 different Pfizer drugs are counterfeited worldwide and that most of these drugs come from China and India.
Much of this problem is the fact that drugs can be very different from what the original product should be. They may vary in quality or quantity, while many of them do not contain ingredients they should have. Clearly, this poses a major threat to patients who depend on such drugs, as they will not adequately cure the disease for which they are intended.
Not only that, but there is a great danger of experiencing side effects due to additional ingredients, which can also be fatal in extreme cases.
However, if the blockchain technology can be adopted, the traceability of drugs will become much simpler and safer. Every piece of data that is added to the block is timestamped and immune to changes, manipulations or deletions. Monitoring products will become easy through simple QR codes and everyone will be able to identify counterfeit drugs at any time.
From blockchain it may be private or public, it would make sense to allow only the reliable entities to actually record products at the top of the chain. In this way, consumers will see that the drug has been authorized by a reliable company and will know that it is safe to use. The same pharmaceutical companies will decide who can act as a miner and those will probably include entities from the supply chain itself.
These problems exist today due to the fact that there is no easy and reliable system that can be used for product monitoring. With blockchain, these problems can be solved and each step of the product journey from the producer to the consumer will be recorded and easily traceable.
Moreover, if there is a problem when a particular batch of drugs, the blockchain will make the recovery of all affected products not only possible but also easy.
2) Clinical trials
The second large use case includes clinical trials, which the pharmaceutical industry uses to test the effectiveness of tolerance of certain products on different patients. These tests tend to take several years and the future of the drug depends on the results.
It is known that billions of billions of dollars are invested in various drugs, projects and attempts to cure diseases. For this reason, ending a test of years with inconclusive results is a huge waste of time and money. Because the results are extremely important, it is not uncommon for fraud to occur. However, detecting it and estimating its frequency is almost impossible at the moment.
Furthermore, there are excessive amounts of data that are produced during clinical trials. Things like safety reports, quality reports, blood tests, statistics, surveys and more – for each individual involved – translate into unimaginable amounts of information. However, as always with so much information, errors can occur and consequently the final results are affected. Data can be edited, hidden or lost and the whole effort ends up being compromised as a result.
Not to mention the possibility of manipulating informed consent forms that patients included in the study must sign. These forms can be incomplete, or even completely manufactured, in some cases. Clearly, there are many potential problems in this part of the pharmaceutical industry and, although they may seem unresolvable at first, blockchain technology can easily handle them all.
Blockchain technology can offer proof of the existence of all documents, reports, statistics and the like. The information stored on the blockchain can not be manipulated, as stated above, which is why the validated reports will always remain unchanged. Furthermore, most of the participating nodes will have to confirm that the reports are really valid before they can be registered.
With the ability to change data, the final results will always represent the real state of things and the entire scientific community will benefit from such results.
3) Management of patient data
Patient data management usually involves big problems. The first is the fact that every patient is unique and the diseases can not be treated in one common way. This is why we have doctors, rather than just instructions on the treatment to be applied.
Each patient could have different side effects of a disease, the drugs could influence them differently, or maybe not work at all. For this reason, the records of each patient must be as precise and well managed as possible. Due to the fact that the health sector has become more patient-centered recently, there is great progress in this regard, although there is still room for improvement.
The second big problem is how to effectively share this information between the medical community, without endangering its security. There were already several attempts to combat this problem, but none of these proved to be practical or safe enough to actually be adopted. To date, doctors tend to consult with others through social networks, which could result in data loss that could endanger patient privacy.
This same problem is also slowing down scientific progress. The problem is even more evident due to the fact that the records are stored in different locations instead of a common database. This is particularly effective when dealing with rare diseases or minorities. Finally, this can also lead to data ownership problems, as patients can not claim full ownership of their medical records, as they would be able to modify them and manipulate the results themselves. This could impact on potential treatments and leave incomplete records. As a result, the patient would suffer more.
The functionality of Blockchain to easily store and share data had already been dealt with previously and can also be applied in this situation. Health service providers can collect data from patients, store them in an existing database and then create a hash so that data can be redirected to the blockchain, along with the patient's public ID.
Access to data can be controlled via smart contracts and the patient can have full ownership of the information as there is no longer the risk of manipulating the data. For example, they may choose to share complete medical records with their doctors or only some parts of their medical records during interactions with pharmaceuticals.
In addition, thanks to IoT devices, patient records can be adjusted and monitored, with important data also stored on the blockchain. The possibilities are endless when it comes to combining technologies, but in order for it to work, everything returns to the blockchain.