The future of blockchain in healthcare

by PQE Group

Blockchain is an increasingly widespread technology that is approaching a stage of maturity that could see an explosion of its use also in the health sector. The point of the situation has been published in “Blockchain in Healthcare Today (BHTY)”, which identifies the ten main trends of this evolution.


Consolidation of startups and user education

More and more startup companies are studying the possible uses of blockchain in the health field, a sector that according to the BHTY review should be increasingly consolidated through acquisition operations.Furthermore, the increasing use of blockchain cannot fail to pass from a greater knowledge of this type of technology by users. The review mentions the need to debunk many misconceptions about the use of blockchain (for example the fact that it is not a database or an analytical tool), an objective that must pass from a better education to its actual potential.


New modalities for consent

Blockchain could drastically change the way in which informed consent is given, overcoming the current fragmentation that sees the patient sign a specific consent for each visit, therapeutic intervention or diagnostic examination. The future could see an inversion of this paradigm, with the patient who through blockchain gives a single consent, including details for sharing and exchanging data and preferences for therapeutic treatment and privacy, to which they could gradually access. An approach that would make it possible to simplify the administrative procedures and the steps that patients have to face on their journey through the disease.


Micro payments and data monetization

Blockchain technology could also increasingly support monetary transitions between patient and care center, especially at the level of micro payments. The new value-based healthcare models could see the reimbursement of the services provided by the providers based on the well-being made, rather than on the quantity. “Doing the right thing” could become the objective to be rewarded with incentives, perhaps provided through a universal and easy-to-use blockchain platform of micro payments. This platform could be used both to reward patients’ efforts to pursue correct behavior and to simplify the sharing of health costs. There are already numerous examples of pilot applications that aim to use blockchain to allow the monetization of health data (as genomics) by users who decide to make them available for public health or research purposes. The objective is, in this case, to overcome the problems linked to the specific consent required for the secondary use of data, through the remuneration of patients who decide to share their anonymized data, for example for applications in the field of precision medicine.


Track clinical outcomes and supply chain

Blockchain technology could also be used to guarantee the integrity of the data entered in the medical records, which would thus be non-modifiable. This would have repercussions both on the possibility of better documenting any medical errors, and to keep track of the outcomes of a specific therapy, for example in the performance of clinical studies. The BHTY article cites as an example the startup Proof of Impact, which aims to make available to interest sets of outcome data that could be used, for example, as a new way to finance research activities, instead of the classic grant.Furthermore, one of the most advanced applications of blockchain sees the tracking of the entire pharmaceutical supply chain, aimed at guaranteeing the integrity of the products and reducing the phenomenon of counterfeiting of medicines.


New methods for provider accreditation

Blockchain could also support simpler ways to create and update directories of accredited healthcare providers, a process that must be confronted with the organizational complexity of health systems. The example cited by the review is that of the Synaptic Health Alliance, whose members can access and update on blockchain the demographic information provided by individual providers.


Lower energy requirements

One of the main limitations of blockchain in its current form is the enormous demand for electricity for its operation. The BHTY review hypothesizes that the infrastructural improvement – also through cloud hosting – may allow to reduce such requests (the so-called “computer-footprint”), thus favoring the speed and scalability of the method.

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