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Blockchain Technology for Healthcare

What is blockchain? Is it worth the hype? Is it a fictional attempt to save the gloomy healthcare sector? Is it a panacea for an epidemic that politicians are eager to quell? Who gains from using blockchain? Do patients have a say in what goes on? Or perhaps this is a plaster for problems on the horizon with the aging populations in countries around the world or the widening gaps in society?

Global health economies are suffering from suboptimal levels of beneficial patient outcomes with increasingly unsustainable levels of consumption and expenditure. By implementing blockchain solutions it is possible to minimise inefficiencies in the way data is shared and handled, reforming healthcare for the benefit of the health economy and patients worldwide.

The healthcare sector is unique in terms of its impact on society; The cost of failure and the reward for success extends beyond material gain and significantly influences societal welfare. Provision of effective healthcare increases utility at an individual level and enhances growth of human capital at a macro level, catalysing broader societal development. Therefore, implementing innovative solutions in healthcare demand particular attention, especially when they possess transformative potential.

A shift in global socio-demographics such as ageing populations combined with increased in prevalence of non-communicable diseases has put huge strain on global health economies; there is a continuous need for innovation in health technologies and healthcare services that substantially reduce morbidity, mortality and improve health-related quality of life.

Potential in Healthcare

The development of blockchain technology in healthcare has been touted as having strong potential for facilitating the optimisation of the global health economy, however the adoption of such the technology is still in its early stages.

At the recent Blockchain in Healthcare Conference at the Geneva University Hospital, many stakeholders gathered to discuss and share developments in the healthcare sector. An increase in the scope and breadth of pilots and current implementations is required, certainly in the short term, to establish the required levels of confidence for mainstream adoption. The sensitivity associated with healthcare data transfer, payments and trade facilitation processes have resulted in a tentative approach to its implementation in real-life settings.

Given the recent nudges towards patient-driven interoperability, in which health data exchange is patient-mediated and patient-driven, there are opportunities for organisations who seek to implement blockchain-based solutions in healthcare to become market pioneers.

Value in Health, Value in Blockchain

Value and effectiveness have become the conundrum which pharmaceutical companies, healthcare institutions and academics have been talking about in the past couple of years.

What is this value? What is considered effectiveness? How are these important to patients? Is it the costs decrease of the drug? Is it the number of days they experience with less pain or discomfort? Perhaps it is the amount of time which they are able to spend with their families without discomfort. Maybe it is the way they can contribute to their place of work or even in society.

A company which has developed the worlds’ first blockchain-based platform that is focused on value-based contracting in healthcare is DIGIPHARM.

The need and the potential in the healthcare sector, to accelerate restructuring of healthcare delivery systems to a value-based approach is addressed by this fully independent, third party platform run by DIGIPHARM. The ‘Reimburse’ platform creates a trusted medical information infrastructure that is designed for sharing and seamless processing of data related to healthcare reimbursement. The use of blockchain and immutable distributed ledger technology creates a multichannel data portal that is accessible by all contracting parties and enables them to have complete trust in these outcomes – whilst generating RWE that can be used to inform health-related research and market access. The opportunity to evaluate the real time performance and value provided by therapies in a real-life setting without the current infrastructural limitations (one of the biggest barriers to value-based healthcare), is a major benefit that reduces administrative costs through the use of smart contracts.

By focusing on outcomes of a drug for a disease or a healthcare service to manage patient health, DIGIPHARM addresses the problem that healthcare systems do not usually have the infrastructure to achieve what actually is valued by patients – better health, at a fair cost.

As the shift to outcomes-based healthcare gathers steam on a global scale, decentralised data management systems such as DIGIPHARM’s Reimburse, the boom of health-focused digital technologies, Artificial Intelligence and intelligent supply chain solutions means that a pareto efficient health economy may be closer than we think.