What healthcare challenges can blockchain eliminate?

blockchain in healthcare

The technological advancements of blockchain in healthcare are taking the industry by a storm. Data fragmentation, rising drug discovery costs, lack of transaction traceability, and patient data security issues have kept pharmaceuticals and healthcare providers from achieving the efficiency, integrity, and transparency expected of them. However, with blockchain entering the picture, a lot is set to change. Its decentralized ledger system offers trust and consensus – the two essential ingredients that make blockchain a novelty. Netscribes research shows that blockchain startups have garnered a total investment of approximately USD 550 million in 2018. From weeding out fake medicines to offering invincible medical data management solutions, blockchain innovations are tearing down archaic barriers ubiquitous to the industry.

While the benefits of blockchain in healthcare have already been claiming the spotlight across various segments, we take a look at some of the most pertinent ones right here:

Lack of transparency

Healthcare Information Exchanges (HIEs) deal with a constant influx of sensitive information and are responsible for its storage, access control, and secured data sharing. However, disconnected systems are a culprit for several inefficiencies and a major hurdle for healthcare research. Moreover, trust issues and the high costs that entail sharing, collecting and analyzing this information make it impossible to establish a unified system. Blockchain’s distributed storage facility enables proper management of healthcare data making HIEs more secure, cost-efficient, and interoperable. Additionally, it also opens in-roads for treatments to be more patient-centric, as both researchers and practitioners get access to holistic patient data.

High cost and timeline of drug discovery

Every clinical trial involves a substantial investment of time and resources. The need to justify these expenditures has often led to fabricating the truth. Lack of transparency and traceability has raised the stakes, leaving patients and government organizations in a sea of uncertainty and distrust. Fortunately, blockchain is helping reinstate this confidence by locking in scores of data recorded at each trial stage and making it unalterable without unanimous consent.  

From electronic informed consent in clinical trials to tamper-proof reporting processes, blockchain in healthcare is witnessing a rising adoption. Moreover, blockchain-based solutions can also provide mechanisms to share clinical trial data competitively, thus, reducing the timelines of drug discovery research. Additionally, the ability to share medical samples securely and review patient data in real time is a real boon for patients with chronic disorders.


Medical data breaches

For healthcare providers to offer an early and accurate diagnosis, data integrity and accountability is imperative. The ever-growing volume of medical data generated by connected devices makes it difficult to manage and safeguard sensitive patient information. Smart contracts can act as an effective recording-keeping solution by assigning each patient with an exclusive digital identity. This blockchain solution enables a seamless integration of medical records distributed across a continually-synced network. This way patients can share their complete medical history in real time across a slew of healthcare service providers, enabling increased operational efficiency. Smart contracts are especially gaining ground in the health insurance sector, as it helps identify any change in the asset outside the policy realm, in real time.

Counterfeit drugs

Counterfeit or substandard drugs are one of the top supply chain vulnerabilities plaguing the industry. Weak links in the supply chain network make drugs highly susceptible to tampering. It’s also important that buyers have a granular view of the different stages – from production, storage to distribution to ensure optimal quality and consistency. Owing to the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), a slew of healthcare organizations are turning to blockchain-enabled services in order to get a transparent view of the entire network. Electronically interoperable systems allow manufacturers and distributors to provide tracking information through shared ledgers with automatic verification. This is putting greater control and autonomy in the buyer’s hands thereby improving delivery management, minimizing delays, and eliminating intermediaries.

How should the healthcare industry prepare for the blockchain disruption?

As a steady stream of pilot projects go into production, organizations in the health and pharma industry will need to make strategic investments to adapt to the changes caused byblockchain. To take decisive steps, it’s important to find answers to questions such as:

  • What is the current and forecasted level of blockchain integration across different healthcare industry segments? How does it impact each segment?
  • How are global healthcare organizations implementing blockchain-enabled solutions? Who are they and which companies are they partnering with?
  • What is the immediate and forecasted impact of current blockchain implementations?

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