Several cases of use are conceivable in the health sector. In particular, blockchain could be used to trace drugs, to secure health data, and to manage patient data.
It is now estimated that at least 10 to 30 per cent of the drugs provided in developing countries are “fake medicines”, which poses considerable health problems: the World Health Organization estimates that the number of deaths per year is 700 000. induced by counterfeit medicines. One way to combat this phenomenon would be to create a universal system to guarantee the traceability of medicines. The blockchain, as a distributed registry, could allow the various pharmaceutical companies, regulators and even individuals to use the same database, without a single company or institution owning it.
This mechanism of “certification” of drugs could be extended to health data in the broad sense. By certifying medical records on a blockchain, an additional layer of security is added: Any update of a document is stored in the blockchain, without the documents themselves needing to be stored there. It is thus impossible for anyone (public authorities, health institutions, patients) to “cover” a change in a medical record. In this context, Guardtime, a specialized start-up, has entered into a partnership with the Estonian Government to secure the 1 million of Estonian medical records on blockchain.
But the most impactful application on the daily lives of patients and health professionals could be related to the management of medical data, in particular by allowing the patient to reclaim his data and manage access to it. Each patient could thus set up his medical file in order to allow access (total or partial) to the persons of his choice (treating physician, family…). It could also require a certain number of signatures (private keys) to open access. This is partly what motivates the ENIGMA project being developed at MIT.
Let us take a concrete situation, that of a patient unconscious after a malaise: so he cannot unlock access to his medical data. However, these may be accessible by the hospital, provided they are unlocked by three different accredited keys: those of the hospital doctor, the paramedic, and a relative of the patient. Using the blockchain for this system would ensure, among other things, the lack of a central control body that could access all the data.
By registering the stages of the care route in a blockchain grouping health institutions and insurers, it would also be possible to automate the payment of the necessary medical benefits, thanks to smart contracts.
By having a longer-term vision, it would even be conceivable that patients could anonymously monetize their data with the pharmaceutical industries, allowing them to study the results of their treatments on a more Wide. For their part, patients would be automatically compensated when the company had access to the desired data. Has the key a win-win exchange for patients who have increased control over their information as well as for laboratories that will be able to specify their research with the processing of statistical samples both wider and more relevant.