Blockchain technology can bring a number of benefits to the health care industry such as improved health care data management, tracking and verification of the authenticity of medicines, and more.
According to the results of a survey conducted by PwC published in September 2018, 49 percent of global healthcare companies are developing blockchain solutions. However, 47 percent of companies said that lack of trust is a barrier to implementing blockchain and 39 percent of companies said that regulatory uncertainty is holding back blockchain.
“Blockchain-based technologies offer substantial opportunities to reinvent how healthcare companies access, collect, distribute, share, leverage, monitor and audit data. Not all companies will benefit. Companies that are slow to change may lose out to ones that use the technology to cut costs and increase efficiencies,” PwC said.
“Companies should be prepared to identify where blockchain could improve their operations and interactions with trusted partners.”
Consulting giant Deloitte believes that the technology could provide a new model for health information exchanges (HIE) by making electronic medical records more efficient, disintermediated, and secure. In its white paper, it said:
“A blockchain powered health information exchange could unlock the true value of interoperability. Blockchain-based systems have the potential to reduce or eliminate the friction and costs of current intermediaries.”
Here is a look at some of the blockchain initiatives backed by governments around the world:
US Department of Health and Human Services
In July 2016, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sought paper submissions on the topic of blockchain technology and its potential uses in the healthcare industry. The initiative aimed to investigate the relationship between blockchain technology and its use in Health IT and/or Health-Related research.
Illinois Blockchain Initiative and Hashed Health
In August 2017, the Illinois Blockchain Initiative, a blockchain consortium of Illinois state and county agencies, partnered with healthcare innovation company Hashed Health to leverage blockchain and distributed ledger technologies. They said at the time that the pilot program would initially focus on exploring how to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the medical credentialing process in the state. By leveraging a blockchain-based registry, the project aimed to streamline the sharing of medical credential data and smart contracts to automate workflow related to multistate and interstate licensure.
In August 2017, Chinese internet giant Alibaba’s online health service Alibaba Health Information Technology Ltd. joined forces with Changzhou’s government to pilot blockchain solutions for health treatments, Yicai Global reported. The key objective was to address the existing issues in the healthcare industry in an economical and secure way. In particular, the collaboration sought to solve the information silos and data security problems currently faced by medical institutions.
Russian Ministry of Health
In August 2017, the Russian Ministry of Health collaborated with Vnesheconombank to work on and deliver pilot projects using blockchain technology. Chairman of Vnesheconombank Sergey Gorkov and Russian Minister of Health Veronika Skvortsova met to discuss the application of blockchain technology in the public healthcare system.
Global Blockchain Council (GBC)
In May 2016, Global Blockchain Council (GBC), a public-private initiative backed by Smart Dubai Office and Dubai Smart Government, extended its support to telecom company du’s pilot that aimed to introduce a safer common system for instantly sharing and verifying electronic health records (EHR) between hospitals and clinics using blockchain technology. In January 2017, du announced its partnership with NMC Hospital to revolutionize EHR with blockchain technology for 100% data security.
Private sector initiatives:
- In October 2015, Philips Healthcare confirmed that it was exploring potential applications for blockchain technology, CoinDesk reported. The company’s interest was first revealed in a tweet by Wayne Vaughan, CEO of blockchain-based record-keeping startup Tierion, who touted the service as a “first project” with the health care company.
- In January 2016, financial services company UBS donated the code for a blockchain-based trading platform to the HEAL Alliance, CoinDesk reported. The HIV Eradication Alliance (HEAL Alliance) is a nonprofit group focused on supporting HIV research. It planned to use UBS’s code as part of a platform that was being developed by London-based financial tech startup Finclusion Systems.
- In March 2016, Guardtime, the platform that ensures the integrity of data and systems at industrial scale, announced a partnership with the Estonian eHealth Foundation to accelerate blockchain-based security, transparency, auditability and governance for the lifecycle management for patient healthcare records.
- In October 2016, Hashed Health announced a major collaboration with a healthcare and technology initiative investment firm Martin Ventures, in order to advance blockchain solutions that address regulatory regimes and issues of the healthcare industry.
- In November 2016, Austin-based blockchain firm Factom received a grant from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to secure persistent, readily available, and reliable medical records, using blockchain technology.
- In June 2017, Taiwanese startup Bitmark announced that it will fund UC Berkeley School of Public Health research fellows to conduct studies using its blockchain technology. The startup has partnered with UC Berkeley to empower individuals to donate their personal data to advance public health.
- In August 2017, the Medical Society of Delaware (MSD), an organization which counts over 1,600 physicians throughout the State of Delaware, teamed up with healthcare services company Medscient to develop a blockchain solution to address the challenges that prior authorization requirements pose to patients and healthcare providers. The solution will use Symbiont’s distributed ledger technology (DLT).
- In December 2017, Nokia revealed the details of a blockchain pilot that aimed to give people more control over their personal health data. In collaboration with OP Financial Group, Nokia sought to explore the potential of blockchain technology in the field of digital health. The pilot involved rewarding users for sharing data coming from their Nokia wearable devices. The data that a user decided to share is encrypted and could be read only by the intended participants on the platform.
- In April 2018, five healthcare organisations teamed up on a blockchain project aimed at addressing the issues relating to care provider data. Humana, MultiPlan, Quest Diagnostics, UnitedHealth Group’s Optum, and UnitedHealthcare formed “Synaptic Health Alliance” and announced a pilot program which will involve applying blockchain technology to improve data quality and reduce administrative costs associated with changes to health care provider demographic data.
- In April 2018, Germany-based Camelot Consulting Group announced that it has developed a blockchain solution, called Hypertrust X-Chain, which will help ensure the highest level of security in the storage and exchange of patient data, CoinTelegraph reported.
- In October 2018, enterprise software company BlackBerry announced a blockchain-based platform for storing and sharing of medical data. In its official release dated October 4, the company said that it intended to create “an ultra-secure global ecosystem” for the healthcare industry. For this, BlackBerry has partnered with ONEBIO.
- In December 2018, Edward Chang, president of HTC’s healthcare division, said that the company is actively developing blockchain-based platforms for healthcare applications, DigiTimes reported.
- In December 2018, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) joined forces with Korean blockchain startup MediBloc to explore better ways to store and share patient data, CoinDesk reported.