Is Blockchain Just What The Doctor Ordered? – Technology


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The application of blockchain across various healthcare
sectors could advance the industry as a whole. Here’s
why.

The healthcare industry has always operated on the cutting edge
of technology. From data analytics to advanced surgical robotics,
medical professionals have consistently leveraged innovation to
improve patient outcomes.

While that progress has generally centered on procedures, tools
and medicines, one digital technology has the potential to
completely transform the way healthcare information and data are
governed. We’re talking of course about blockchain.

Blockchain could be just what the doctor ordered for an industry
where record keeping is a lifeblood and privacy is paramount.
Highly secure, visible and transparent, blockchain is essentially a
digital ledger of information that is distributed efficiently
across a peer network in a verifiable and permanent way. It is
immutable and resistant to modification. (See graphic below.)

With those qualities, it’s no surprise that blockchain is
booming across multiple industries, like banking, accounting and
transportation. Between 2020 and 2025, blockchain’s market
share is expected to grow at a rate of 67.3 percent (CAGR) to reach $39.7 billion.

Many healthcare companies are increasingly turning to blockchain
to gain a competitive edge and as a means for reliable information
exchange. In fact, recent surveys found that healthcare is one of the leading industries experimenting with
blockchain
. What’s more, organizations state that cost and
technology do not pose a hurdle to entry.

And yet, across healthcare many sectors are resistant to greater
adoption. What’s holding the industry back? What’s holding
your company back?

We’re Only Humans

For all its proven value, blockchain is so innovative it may be
running a step ahead of the healthcare industry in general.
Implementing blockchain requires tighter processes around sharing
information. That means all parties within a supply chain need
access to shared data and must trust one another. Without that
trust, collaboration is near impossible.

Another issue is outdated legacy systems. Blockchain is creating
new operational models that leverage new capabilities. Companies
need to have the technological infrastructure to hold up these
processes, calling for a significant investment in revamping their
systems. Quite naturally, this can be costly and deter
adoption.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, however. During pilot
programs, some drug manufacturers and wholesalers indicated they
saw no disadvantages to collaborating. They are in fact working
together to enhance their supply chain capabilities and are finding
ways to implement blockchain.

Blockchain is a growing list of records, called
“blocks,” that are linked through a secure form of
communication called cryptography. Each block contains a
cryptographic “hash” (data + information) of the previous
block, a timestamp, and transaction data. To maximize the
efficiences of blockchain, all parties in a supply chain need
access to partner data/information. This requires trust and
collaboration — something that various sectors in the
healthcare industry are still working through.

Breaking Down Resistance

As pilot programs and other applications of blockchain make
incremental inroads in healthcare, wider resistance could fall to
the wayside and we may see greater adoption. Here are two
high-profile sectors where success might pave the way.

Clinical Trial Manipulation

Drug manufacturers must obtain FDA approval before marketing any
new drug. This means manufacturers need to conduct extensive
preclinical and clinical testing and analysis to ensure the safety
and efficacy of their drug. That leads to a wealth of data —
all of which needs to be verified. In the past, pharmaceutical
companies have made false statements or omitted data to secure
approval. With blockchain, the FDA could ensure all the information
provided is accurate and confirm the safety, efficacy, pharmacology
and toxicology of the new drug.

Counterfeit Medicines

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 29 percent of
Americans have reported problems paying medical bills,
which leads to their neglecting to seek further treatment. Further,
it leads to patients seeking cheaper alternative medications that
could, in fact, be counterfeit — and potentially lethal.
Blockchain can enable visibility into the drug’s composition
and ensure that patients are receiving the right care. By simply
scanning a QR code, patients would be able to validate the
medicine’s origin, ingredients, dosage amounts, etc. and
eliminate the risk altogether.

Getting on the Blockchain Bandwagon

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when adopting a new
technology. Companies must perform their own due diligence to
understand if blockchain is the right solution for their
organization. Like any good practice of decision-making, consider
developing a pros and cons list. 

Also, identify as many possible use cases of blockchain as you
can — the possibilities can apply to pure supply chain
logistics, like peer-to-peer processes, and also to several
clinical areas where a significant number of touchpoints and data
are exchanged.

There are a number of factors to consider: governance,
integration, infrastructure, new entrants and other interconnected
points throughout your enterprise or your supply chain
partner’s enterprise. Think of this exercise as an excellent
way to enable buy-in and collaboration within your network by
bringing your supply chain partners into this process up front.

It’s also advisable to advocate for blockchain outside of
direct ROI. Pointing to the risks that blockchain mitigates might
be more appealing. Should a drug recall occur, for example, would
your company want to be without a technology that could help
protect its reputation, people and bottom line?

Like any transformation, blockchain can disrupt and change your
organization. In the end, however, its benefits will be
long-lasting. As the inroads continue to open up and adoption
becomes more appealing — imperative, you might say —
it’s better to be near the front of the line than bringing up
the rear.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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