Blockchain affects and impacts many industries where transformations are underway and look promising: data security, inclusion, traceability, transparency, disintermediation, and performance gains. Shaken by the Covid health crisis, in France and elsewhere, the health sector is no exception.
According to the Premier Healthcare Alliance, an association of 3,700 American hospitals, the lack of interoperability among healthcare workers causes 150,000 deaths each year and represents an annual cost of $ 18.6 billion. Also in the United States, hacking of health data affected a third of the country’s databases and would have cost 30 billion dollars in 2016 alone. Also, according to WHO and the University of Edinburgh, between 72,000 and 169,000 children die each year in Africa from pneumonia treated with counterfeit medicines. In developing countries, one in 10 medicines is of inferior quality or falsified, and 700,000 deaths are linked each year. Finally, in France, according to the Association for the good use of medicines, more than 10,000 deaths a year are linked to the abuse of medicines.
Aside from any public policy or health care considerations, blockchain technology can impact the entire value chain: patient, doctor, pharmacy, hospital, research institute, and pharmaceutical laboratory. While the technical, safety and regulatory issues are significant, the fact remains that medium- and long-term advances and benefits are important.
Here are 4 tangible progress factors that blockchain can offer the healthcare sector:
1. Digitization of Patient Registry and health data
Pending the democratization of the recently launched “digital health record” (and successor to the shared health record of stillbirths), our good old paper health record remains the only registry that centralizes our health history. Our medical data is dispersed across each of our healthcare professionals and applications.
Blockchain offers the opportunity to design a distributed and decentralized infrastructure to allow patients to regain control over their data and track its use. For medical personnel, the patient’s knowledge leverage would increase significantly and would actually improve the diagnosis and treatment provided. For research and innovation, formatting and having a larger volume of data would be a huge accelerator. Finally, it would be entirely possible for patients to be able, anonymously, to monetize the sharing of their medical data with laboratories and companies in the sector.
It is therefore the entire system that benefits from blockchain technology: digitization and high security of health history, improved monitoring, diagnosis and treatment, transparency on the use of data and anonymous monetization, consolidation and correlation of a colossal volume of health data and, finally, facilitating the interoperability of health systems
2. Interoperability of health information systems
The exchange of medical data between the different actors (patient, doctor, laboratory, hospital, insurance company) is complex, in particular due to the lack of standardization standards. By bringing together a consortium of actors, the blockchain would enable this implementation and ensure interoperability based on standardized data and the necessary confidentiality.
In this case, the main advantage of the blockchain would lie in its ability not to question the pre-existing IT systems but rather to add a layer entirely dedicated to the standardization, automation and securing of exchanges, in particular thanks to one of its main ones. ownership: smart contracts.
In fact, based on the principles of transparency and immutability of the blockchain, the terms and conditions of execution of these contracts are tamper-proof.
3. Medical and genetic research
The advancement of medical and genetic research will accelerate if actors, especially researchers, have access to greater volumes of data. This is the case, for example, of clinical research, which bases its work on small patient samples.
Thanks to the contribution of the blockchain, this medical data would be increased, better shared among researchers and even better protected. This is also the case with genetic research where many private actors offer to decode your genome without this genetic data belonging to you! The future development of human genome sequencing should rely on distributed and decentralized technology to accelerate progress, but also ensure the confidentiality of the data used.
4. Traceability and correct use of drugs.
The pharmaceutical industry is undoubtedly the most favorable territory, in the short term, for the adoption of a “consortium blockchain” that covers the entire drug supply chain (research, production, prescription, dispensing, use, monitoring and control).
Combining the characteristics of public and private blockchains, it is also called a “hybrid blockchain”. It stands out in particular for the consensus it imposes since decisions are taken by the majority of members, whose authorization is controlled. It can therefore be described as a regulated blockchain.
This could natively improve the transparency and efficiency of distribution, while at the same time fighting very effectively against drug counterfeiting. It would also open up whole areas for improvement in the intake and use of drugs.
Recent health tests have highlighted the many limitations of our health organizations, public or private, in terms of coordination and pooling of resources and capabilities, in particular. HAS at a time when questions about their optimization abound, these challenges must be addressed comprehensively.
From a technological point of view, the blockchain appears essential. Thanks to it, we can believe, with optimism, that organizations will enter a new era of decentralized and distributed exchanges of values, where transparency, security, fluidity and trust will be better mastered and otherwise exploited in the service of the patient’s health.