Blockchain is being touted by technology experts as having the potential to transform a wide range of business transactions and processes. According to Forbes, private investment in blockchain companies exceeded $4.5 billion in 2017.[1]

Blockchain technology securely records transactions between two parties and retains all transaction history. A blockchain constantly grows as new “blocks” or “nodes” of data are added. Once an event is recorded, it can never be altered or deleted, preserving data history and integrity.

Health care industry leaders are excited about blockchain’s potential, but experts caution that moving to concrete applications will take time. The first step is for the health care industry to establish blockchain consortia to create standards and foster partnerships for the technical infrastructure before moving on to large-scale projects.[2]

Potential health care applications for blockchain include:[3]

  • Patient health data – Using blockchain for health data exchanges would ensure health data interoperability, integrity and security. It would give providers easy access to historic and real-time data from disparate electronic medical records systems scattered across multiple facilities.
  • Billing and claims management – Using blockchain to automate the claims resolution and payment processes could speed payments, reduce administrative costs and eliminate the need for intermediaries to resolve issues.
  • Pharmaceuticals – Counterfeit drugs cost pharmaceutical companies $200 billion each year.[4] Blockchain could track the chain of custody for drugs through the supply chain and establish smart contracts to maintain drug integrity and veracity.
  • Drug testing and development – Experts estimate 50% of clinical trials are not reported, creating knowledge gaps for patients, clinicians and policy makers.[5] Using blockchain for clinical trials would establish permanent records of testing protocols and results for use by all stakeholders.
  • Health care internet of things (IoT) – Health care data breaches have increased and the growing use of health care IoT devices poses a looming threat. Analysts expect up to 30 billion health care IoT devices will be in use around the world by 2020.[6] Blockchain could securely bridge the interoperability gap between various devices and protect their data outputs.

[1] “Blockchain Tops $4.5 Billion In Private Funding This Year, But Deal Growth Stalls,” by Jonathan Ponciano, Forbes, Sept. 22, 2017. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathanponciano/2017/09/22/blockchain-tops-4-5-billion-in-private-funding-this-year-but-deal-growth-stalls/#3bab7eea74c6

[2] “Who Will Build the Health-Care Blockchain?” by Mike Orcutt, MIT Technology Review, Sept. 15, 2017. Available at: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608821/who-will-build-the-health-care-blockchain/

[3] “Who Will Build the Health-Care Blockchain?” by Mike Orcutt, MIT Technology Review, Sept. 15, 2017. Available at: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608821/who-will-build-the-health-care-blockchain/ and “Does Blockchain Have a Place in Healthcare?” by Reenita Das, Forbes, May 8, 2017. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/reenitadas/2017/05/08/does-blockchain-have-a-place-in-healthcare/#2d39e8431c31

[4] “Does Blockchain Have a Place in Healthcare?” by Reenita Das, Forbes, May 8, 2017. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/reenitadas/2017/05/08/does-blockchain-have-a-place-in-healthcare/#2d39e8431c31

[5] “Does Blockchain Have a Place in Healthcare?” by Reenita Das, Forbes, May 8, 2017. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/reenitadas/2017/05/08/does-blockchain-have-a-place-in-healthcare/#2d39e8431c31

[6] “Does Blockchain Have a Place in Healthcare?” by Reenita Das, Forbes, May 8, 2017. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/reenitadas/2017/05/08/does-blockchain-have-a-place-in-healthcare/#2d39e8431c31

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