According to Deloitte, from 2020 to 2024, the spending for global healthcare is predicted to rise by about a nearly 4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). Meanwhile, Asia and Australia have the fastest growth, at 5,3%. It means that the healthcare sector is developing rapidly and the demands for healthcare services are increasing. With the blooming of high technology, the healthcare industry gradually shifts into using technology platforms for booking medical examinations, remote monitoring, and storing patients’ information. For example, a few years ago in Viet Nam, to book medical appointments, patients needed to go to the hospital and wait for their turns to receive order numbers. This process is time-wasting for patients and over-crowding for healthcare institutions. Then, currently, most enormous hospitals in Viet Nam have their own healthcare applications, so that patients can book appointments online and keep track of their health conditions or treatment processes easily and conveniently. Nowadays, there are several rising trends in the healthcare industry because of the Covid-19 pandemic, such as Electronic health records (EHR), Telehealth, AI, 3D printing, etc and all of these are based on blockchain. So, blockchain acts as a potential technology that can solve several problems happening in the healthcare industry.
In this article, we will focus on the following issues in healthcare and how blockchain technology benefits the healthcare industry:
- Ineffective interoperability
- Counterfeit drugs
- Data management in clinical trials
1. Challenges in the healthcare industry
a. Ineffective interoperability
According to the definition of HIMS, interoperability describes the ability to access, exchange, integrate, and cooperatively use data within different information systems, devices, applications, and across healthcare organizations, regions, and nations. Nowadays, interoperability is one of the big issues that the healthcare industry has to deal with. There are two enormous problems created by ineffective interoperability: information blocking and difficulty in identifying patients.
According to the American medical association, information blocking can occur in different forms. Doctors can witness information blocking when accessing patients' records from other healthcare organization systems, while patients have problems with accessing or sending their personal health records to another provider. The root causes for these problems come from both hospitals and incompleted sharing information systems. Since hospitals don’t want their patients to move on to another healthcare organization, they make it difficult for patients to share medical information. Patients don’t have the right to control their own medical data and data stored by hospitals can be edited without them knowing. Then, information blocking leads to a loss of trust in healthcare systems.
In healthcare sectors, patient misidentification occurs usually and in different steps of the healthcare process. A Ponemon Institute survey executed in 2016, found out that 86% of participants have experienced or at least, known about the medical error that happened due to patient misidentification. Additionally, "incorrect identification at registration" is considered the biggest root of patient misidentification, accounting for 63%.
Currently, the majority of healthcare institutions apply no universal system to recognize patients’ identities. Although several organizations, for example, HIMSS, spend almost 20 years developing solutions to make the process of identifying patients easier, the issue has still not been solved.
b. Drug counterfeiting
Counterfeit medicine is a huge issue for patients' safety and a major concern for pharmaceutical organizations. According to the estimation of the Center For Medical Economics and Innovation, the global sales of counterfeit drugs in the pharmaceutical market are from $200 billion to $421 billion annually.
Counterfeit drugs can include insufficient, incorrect, erroneous ingredients, falsified information such as wrong labeling and package leading to serious health consequences. Since counterfeit drugs contain incorrect or insufficient ingredients, it leads to ineffective treatment or worsening situations, making disease progressive. For example, treatment with counterfeit antibiotic drugs with insufficient ingredients can cause resistant organisms and threaten the ability to treat common infectious diseases. When the body takes a huge amount of counterfeit drugs, it can suffer from a drug overdose or underdose, leading to immune system disorder. So, there is an increasing number of infections, such as pneumonia and foodborne disease, becoming harder to cure due to the ineffectiveness of antibiotics. Then, various solutions have been adopted to prevent counterfeit drugs, including holograms, and embedded codes. However, to completely solve the problem, an effective drug traceability process with a high level of security needs to be adopted widely, for pharmaceutical counterfeit control.
c. Data management in clinical trials
A clinical trial is a process of testing a new drug to clarify its effectiveness, adverse effects, and impacts on patients. Nowadays, there are 2 problems in clinical trials, which are big data and trust & security. While testing drugs, several processes and data need to be recorded, such as the reaction of patients using drugs under different circumstances, participants’ information, etc. Therefore, having a system that can store a huge amount of data is essential. Secondly, trust and security are the consideration of both parties in a clinical trial process. While the public cares about the authenticity of clinic trial results, researchers' owners tend to pay attention to the security and transparency of data. The lack of transparency, insufficient data-sharing, misconduct, and fraud in executing research have decreased the public's trust in clinical trials. Additionally, since the data of clinical trials are enormous, third-party organizations take responsibility for storing it. So, there is a huge chance of leaking or changing data and results because the right of storing data does not belong to the owner of the research.
2. Blockchain adoption as a feasible solution to tackle these challenges in healthcare
a. Using blockchain healthcare applications to identify patients and share information
In blockchain-based health applications, a user has only 1 ID (identification) with an identity number, real picture, address number, and phone number for registration. And each identity number can only register 1 ID, also known as hash ID, to avoid anonymous users. By that, this app can make the process of identifying patients easier. Moreover, a blockchain-based platform that is immutable, traceable, and able to share between partners can deal with sharing data problems. It provides patients better control of their medical information and who can access the data. Besides, health information shared among hospitals helps doctors in understanding patients’ health conditions better and gives an accurate diagnosis. So, Blockchain Technology Development Services have improved provider-patient communication, ensures patients’ information safety and security while enabling them to share it with chosen hospitals. Information is only updated or altered when patients agree.
b. Integrating blockchain technology with drug traceability apps
The biggest advantage of integrating blockchain with drug traceability applications is its security. Since the pharmaceutical supply chain management includes various stakeholders (suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, pharmacies, and patients) with different packaging, unpackaging, and repackaging processes, it is hard to control tracing and tracking drug processes. Then, blockchain which provides immutable and time-stamped transactions is a suitable solution to tackle counterfeit drugs. It ensures that products will be tracked easily and data won’t be leaked or altered. However, pharmaceutical suppliers that register in the system need to be trustworthy to verify the authenticity and traceability of drugs.
So, what is the use case of blockchain in healthcare? Currently, several blockchain-based drug traceability systems have been put into practice, for instance, Drugledger. The improvement of this system compared to the traditional one is the change in the service architecture. It separates service providers into three different parts: CSP (certificate service provider); QSP (query service provider); ASP (anti-attack service provider) and integrating blockchain technology for better management.
c. Blockchain-based platforms as solutions for clinical trial management in healthcare
These problems can be solved by blockchain technology. It is a perfect solution for clinical trials because it provides data integrity and authenticity verifications. A blockchain-based platform has a large distributed datastore to record pieces of information, ensuring that data can not be modified without authorized permissions. Nowadays, several pharmaceutical organizations want to record only the positive results of clinical trials and delete information about adverse reactions of participants, so data from research can be altered. Then, using blockchain can provide a fair system to record secure, unbiased, transparent clinical trials, where results can not be changed without all the parties knowing.
This article clarifies the essential roles of blockchain in healthcare and predicts that blockchain can be the savior of the healthcare industry. Several blockchain-based platforms have been used widely in the healthcare industry because of their security and immutability. Blockchain technology has demonstrated its effectiveness when solving three enormous problems in healthcare, including ineffective interoperability, counterfeit drugs, and data management in clinical trials. The biggest advantage of blockchain is that it can transform a centralized and small-scale healthcare system into a decentralized and global system. By that, patients’ identification, drug counterfeiting, storing, and sharing data are no longer problems for healthcare. However, building a universally blockchain-based healthcare system requires various partners involved, such as the government, healthcare organizations, patients, doctors, etc. Then, spreading the healthcare platforms for a majority of people can be hard, but it is possible if we try.
SotaTek provides several Blockchain Development Services as great solutions to overcome various problems in the healthcare industry. With professional blockchain developers, our company believes that we can build and upgrade block-chain medical platforms that ensure high security, privacy, and convenience for healthcare institutions.