The multi-billion dollar blockchain industry could not overlook the health care budget segment of national economies, and not propose its solutions to optimize data streams. As early as at the stage of infrastructural development of blockchain technologies, the US Department of Health and Human Services has held an open tender on using blockchain solutions in health care. As a result, 15 documents were designated as winners; they varied widely in their approaches to problem resolution but coincided precisely in the determination of practical tasks of providing health care services to the population, tasks that can be resolved by the new technologies.
The very essence of blockchain technologies that allows to use them as a system of secure trusted data repository — the creation of data chains signed by the keys selected on the basis of the network node consensus algorithms offers at least three potential solutions for the healthcare industry:
- The first entails the creation of guaranteed secure and simultaneously publicly accessible repositories of information about the patients, their diseases, treatments, medical records, medications taken, prescriptions written and medications issued — basically, all of the information that requires medical privacy and may be disclosed only at a patient’s discretion. These are blockchain-based storages of medical data. Their advantages are in the fact that access can be established at any time from any spot on the globe, and if the patient, his representative or insurance company have a deciphering key, then the medical history, medications taken, and specialists’ comments will be easily accessible. This will allow treating a patient anywhere, using the entire history of previous treatment that’s been recorded in an indestructible blockchain database.
- The second solution entails resolving a logistical problem linked to tracking therapeutic drugs and medical items. In accordance with WHO data for 2018, the amount of falsified and low-quality drugs in the entire pharmaceutical market volume is estimated at no less than 10%. In certain drug types, according to the Department of Health, the amount of falsified goods has been estimated at as much as 47%! Controlling the production of all drugs from manufacturing to drugstore shelves will guarantee quality to the consumer, who would be able to independently check the date of manufacture and best before date using a simple blockchain reader for the platform in question on their smartphone. Besides, the falsification of drugs at the level of counterfeiting the substances during the manufacturing process, and using ‘night shifts’ at pharmaceutical plants will also become impossible due to precise linking of batches of substances, technological charts, and manufactured drug batches and their blockchain records. In case of identification of ineffective or falsified batches of drugs, the guilty party will be instantly identified.
- The third solution entails control over purchasing and subsidized issue of prescription-only drugs that are included under the program of free health services provision to the patients under the compulsory health insurance. End-to-end control would be useful here — from purchasing to issuing from the pharmacy — in order to halt various corruption-related violations and the chance for the patients to monitor the presence of specific drugs in local pharmacies, which will decrease the lines, lower the compulsory medical insurance system expenditures and increase the accessibility of pharmaceutical drugs for all categories of the population. In the USA, the legislative authorities have deemed that by 2023 an integrated network (still inexistent) that controls the issuance of prescription-only medicine should be in place. One of the options is the use of MediLedger, one of the most advanced blockchain projects in the sector.
“Blockchain-based control of prescription drug purchasing is an innovative international solution for health care,” comments Alexey Nasonov, CEO of the Worldcore fintech company, which acts as a consultant for several healthcare projects. “This is the first step towards the so-called personalized pharmaceutical drug provision, when pharmaceutical corporations manufacture individual drugs for each patient, marking them in a corresponding manner and placing relevant information in the blockchain, in order for the drug to reach its consumer, and this person only. Besides, don’t overlook such a simple and non-specific use for blockchain as using tokens to pay for services.”
Tasks similar to those of the third type can be resolved now with no adjustments of the legislation since there’s no need to honor medical privacy. That’s why in Russia, for instance, one of the pilot projects was launched at the Novgorod regional clinical hospital, entailing blockchain control of the origin and purpose of pharmaceuticals.
The project is realized by the blocktech segment of United Medical Corporation, a St. Petersburg company. An electronic access system is being implemented for every patient so that they can track the prescription of medications and their availability under the subsidized program.
For the hospital, the system entails monitoring the consumption of pharmaceuticals, automatic formation of a patient’s financial record for the compulsory medical insurance report. The end of the project’s first phase is slated for the end of 2018. Ethereum-based ERC20 smart contracts form its foundation.
By 2018, the number of projects in the healthcare segment has grown significantly — from DentaCoin, which offers tokens to pay for dental services, cannabisfarm.io, which provides products for growers, as it’s clear from the name to more global ones, like MediLedger, which resolves the issues in global drug tracking, Patientory, Medicalchain, MEDIS, which deal with providing global access to patients’ database.
“In the future, the development of the healthcare sphere will lead to personalization of medical assistance, including the development of personal medicines based on the genome map and the patient’s condition,” sums up Alexey Nasonov. “Today, IBM Watson already diagnoses patients better than any doctor. If we switch the medical centers’ local databases to a blockchain format, accessible to the entire world, it will create a revolution in health care, comparable to the big data revolution.”
In other words, the healthcare blockchain industry is developing, and the emergence of numerous projects that are finding their crowd investors means that people are concerned with their health, they’re willing to invest in it, and this process is not about to ever stop.