It is a fact that diseases are on the rise, including infectious and non-infectious diseases. However, technology plays a significant role in the fight against them. Some chances of employing technology like blockchain in medicine will further improve data security, transaction, billing, and exchange, among other areas of interest. However, it is noteworthy to know what blockchain is.
Blockchain is simply a decentralized and secured database. It enables a distributed peer to peer, P2P, transactions among users. Although it originated in 1991, blockchain found its first renowned application in bitcoin. It can also find applications in medicine, supply chain, certification, etc.
Applying blockchain in medicine could further improve medical staff credentialing, and electronic health records (EHRs), drug supply chain, billing, and reduce fraud.
This article is addressing how blockchain can be applied in medicine while referencing some use cases of blockchain in medicine. However, the concerns herein are transparency, decentralization, scalability, and consensus. Nonetheless, as further research is going on, we hope these concerns are taken care of with time.
Blockchain application in medicine.
According to the Health Research Funding Organization (HRFO), about 10 to 30 percent of drugs in developing countries are not original. On the other hand, the U.S. healthcare industry losses approximately $200 billion annually due to fake drugs. For example, in 2012, during a national meningitis outbreak, a drug was traced to the New England Compounding Center (NECC), engaging in drug manufacturing in violation of its state license. For this reason, it necessitated the enactment of the Drug Supply Chain and Security Acts, DSCA.
Applying blockchain in medicine could enable full implementation of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act, DSCA. It can offer a peer to peer transparent ledger, where manufactures and users can verify drug sources.
If an identifier or serial code is attached to every drug, according to DSCA requirements, it will be easy to trace the manufacturer. However, how do we ensure that the drug identifier is not fake since there is no single ledger for storage and verification?
The answer is simply adopting blockchain application in medicine, to create a distributed database of manufacturers, vendors, and distributors. The ledger will further help regulators and users know the origin of products.
Pilot case: CHRONICLED,
CHRONICLED is a Blockchain-based, Supply Chain Management company in San Francisco, California. The company builds blockchain networks that demonstrate chain-of-custody, consequently, helping pharma companies manage their medicines supplies. One example of their projects is Mediledger, created in 2017.
Clinical trials and data security
Clinical trials require lots of tests and experiments to reach a hypothesis. However, scientists sometimes report the same data of trials, knowingly or unknowingly, to reduce the cost of performing more experiments, as well as analyzing more data.
If the details of the test and trials are time-stamped, there is a higher chance for credible results. Applying blockchain in medicine can ensure data security when the details of trails and the needed data are ported on the blockchain.
If clinical trials can ensure the security of data before and after trails, there will be better results. In achieving this, blockchain smart contracts and distributed ledger functions, will be very helpful.
Whenever a scientist performs a trial, he/she signs a smart contract containing the details, deliverables, and every requirement of the trial. At each time, anyone can verify it from anywhere, provided the person is in the network, and has access.
Therefore, applying blockchain will reduce audit costs, review of files, lost document issues, and frauds. The blockchain will also keep the supply chain management of the pharma as well as the accountability of drug tracking.
Medical staff credentialing
Nowadays, certification and credentialing are becoming a challenge in the healthcare sector, since there are back and forth processes in credentialing. It consumes time, resources, and so on due to manual verification. Consequently, medical staff can forge certificates. Therefore, employing a distributed ledger technology like blockchain in medicine can improve staff credentialing.
The ledger will be designed to track and update the credentials at any point in time from the various institutions. It could be a private or public blockchain, to enable owners and institutions to give access to the auditing parties to the ledger containing the records. Entering a smart contract of staff data on a shared ledger, which updates and not changed when needed, can help improve the integrity of the staff.
Hashed Health Consortium is an example of a project applying blockchain in medicine. It was initiated in 2017 and consisting of a group of healthcare industry stakeholders working together to identify how blockchain can solve healthcare industry challenges. They launched the credentialing product in 2018 that leverages blockchain to exchange clinician’s information securely.
Electronic Health Records, EHR.
A patient could require multiple health professionals to edit, view, and share reliable patient data. However, in a conventional system, each practitioner conducts a new test before treatment, and that could be time-consuming, whereas the same patients already have a record.
It is not only costlier, but the delays can lead to deaths and more casualties. However, blockchain in medicine can reduce the time, make it cheaper, and bring hope to the patients.
When a patient’s records at each point of diagnosis are stored and updated, it becomes easier for the next doctor to handle the patient. The blockchain offers a solution where health experts, upon diagnosis, store data, detailing the conditions of the patient’s health history. The record will be easier for the next person to commence treatment immediately.
A pilot case: BURSTIQ
BURSTIQ is a Cybersecurity, Software company, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They employ blockchain for safekeeping, sales, sharing, or license patient data while maintaining strict compliance with HIPAA rules.
Medical billing and claims.
In the report, titled, Medicare Fraud in the United States: Can it Ever be Stopped? By Chelsea Hill, et al., there is a $30 million annual loss due to medical fraud in the U.S.
Also, 5-10% of healthcare costs are fraudulent. However, the unverifiable claims in medicine are due to manual and unsecured medical billing, investments, and transaction. In a case where healthcare bills are recorded and updated in a shared ledger, the loss and misappropriation will be minimal.
Applying blockchain in medicine will help to keep track of healthcare investment inpatients’ payments. The blockchain offers a shareable ledger where transactions users can verify data. By so doing, the billing and investments could be managed.
A hospital in China, Guangzhou Huadu District People’s Hospital, reportedly launched a blockchain-based invoice service. The hospital issues electronic bills for both outpatients and inpatients, and the bills are accessible with a smartphone.
Crypto Current will be guiding all of you who are new to the cryptocurrency world to becoming a cryptocurrency and blockchain expert. Crypto Current was founded to give access to information to everyone on current events occurring in cryptocurrency and blockchain in a digestible way. Since its creation, we have created content that impacted thousands of people through its podcast, blog, and social media.