Blockchain can provide security, trust, and transparency, among other benefits. People believe that blockchain technology is the next great digital revolution since the invention of the internet. It provides enormous benefits for our health care system. Although much data is already stored digitally in the medical sector, there is still a missing system that properly protects the data and is compatible with patients, doctors, and our health insurance companies. This is where blockchain’s potential comes in. Estonia is a great role model for blockchain application in the health sector, as the digital system appears to be working, with 99 % of the population already having a patient card stored on the blockchain.
Challenges facing the healthcare system
A total mess in our diagnostic reports and diagnoses, falsification of organ donation waiting lists, and improperly stored, transported, or even faked medicines. Unfortunately, such incidents are not uncommon in the health sector. Fortunately, blockchain technology can provide a solution with numerous options in this section.
German organ donation scandal
A few years ago, there was a huge scandal in Germany because doctors falsified organ donation waiting lists. They labelled patients as sicker than they actually were, causing them to move up the waiting list. This doesn’t seem so bad until you consider what happened to the sick people who were higher up on the list for good reason. There were several attempted manslaughter cases. This resulted not only in outrage but also in a significant drop in registrations for organ donation. The waiting list is supposed to be moved to a blockchain as a solution. Due to its decentralized structure, the blockchain makes it almost impossible to falsify data without other responsible parties becoming aware of it.
More safety in the control of medicines
The entire supply chain is critical to the quality of medicines. Temperature fluctuations during transport or even storage can have a serious impact on the medicine’s shelf life. These errors can be identified and even avoided if the entire medication supply chain is stored on a blockchain. All data can be tracked very precisely, for example, how long the cold chain of medicine was disrupted in order to determine whether it is still valid. Storing the supply chain on the blockchain would have an additional benefit. Traceability makes it simple to detect fake medicines. A QR code is used to verify the authenticity of the medicines as soon as they arrive at the pharmacy. Patients can track the supply chain of their medication back to its manufacture from the comfort of their own homes.
Patient data should be kept where it belongs: To the patient
Who is not familiar with it? An appointment with the doctor who requests that they bring their previous findings or MRI/X-ray images. But who has a folder at home with this information? Almost no one, because the attending doctor is often the only one who manages the findings and diagnoses in his or her archive. Typically, the patient has little access to or control over their health data. The blockchain stores all relevant services, information and data in a patient file. Part of the network is the patient, the treating doctors and the health insurance company, which can supplement the blockchain with further data blocks.
This decentralized digital patient file has immense opportunities. It has the potential to significantly simplify doctors’ initial consultations and check-ups, and doctors can make diagnoses more quickly and easily with the help of the patient’s entire health history. In this way, the entire innovative patient care system could improve. It is important to note that not every doctor simply has access to all the patient’s data, the patient has complete control over who gets access to their data and who does not.
Is it just wishful thinking, or is it possible in reality?
These are just a few examples of the application of blockchain in healthcare. There are many more possibilities in which the technology provides more efficiency and security. A real role model for the implementation of blockchain is Estonia. After the country became a victim of a cyber attack on their state infrastructure in 2007, they decided to implement a complete blockchain-based data management system. Through the so-called E-Estonia, the state administration and also the healthcare system is managed. Patients have a digital medical card and are therefore at the centre of all state services. The patient card is managed very simply via an app on the smartphone, from which patients can view their medical reports or digital prescriptions at any time.
If your are interested in E-Estonia and it’s blockchain based data management, check out their website or this YouTibe video for more information.
Is there a possibility of application in germany?
Unfortunately, there is still no project in Germany that is testing the applications of blockchain in the health sector. This may be since digitalization, in general, is very behind in Germany. Besides, a completely new infrastructure is needed for implementation. Private and statutory health insurance companies, doctors’ practices, hospitals and pharmacies would all have to convert to the new blockchain system. Considering the size of the population in Germany, this would be a much bigger challenge than for a small country like Estonia.
But as a recent study by Deloitte shows, the corona virus is driving the digitalisation of healthcare in Germany. Perhaps this is a small glimmer of hope in the future of a blockchain-based health system.