Unraveling Medicine: The Blockchain Impact

Say blockchain, and many equate it to a financial services industry technology. But in reality, the underlying architecture for cryptocurrencies is now used in new ways to improve transactions and "codify" trust.

One industry that is quickly embracing blockchain's promise is healthcare. At the first-ever Healthcare O2O Summit, hosted by Nexchange and held at the start of last month, critical players discussed how blockchain is shaping the future of the highly regulated industry, and our mortality. Below are some key takeaways.

Blockchain Fever is Spreading Fast

The blockchain is offering a fresh new approach to improving efficiency and automating healthcare processes. For example, iSolve.io is developing an end-to-end drug supply chain platform. The main aim is to eviscerate counterfeit medicine--a vast, multi-million dollar problem for the healthcare industry.

“Essentially, the platform uses “blockchain to connect with healthcare providers and regulators,” Darryl Glover, Principal and Chief Clinical Officer, iSolve.io said.

Meanwhile, Ildar Fazulyanov, Founder, and CEO, WELL Network is looking to make healthcare borderless using blockchain to connect with patients and doctors over a decentralized, blockchain-based platform.

"With Blockchain, you can privatize your medical data," Fazulyanov said, adding that it will change how telehealth and healthcare-based machine learning will evolve.

Even investors are taking note. According to Bonnie Cheung, Venture Partner, 500 Startups, blockchain in healthcare is evolving fast but is “still in its early stages.” “But it has a very interesting future,” she said.

Glover added that blockchain increases transparency within medical networks. “All the data is siloed. No one knows who is the ultimate end customer. So we aren’t disrupting processes [with blockchain], but enhancing processes and connecting people together,” he said.

Regulations and Blockchain: Powerful Medicine

One of the most significant challenges that face healthcare is regulations. Since the players are working with personal data, regulations, similar to the financial services industry, is strict.

Dr. Hanif Kanji, CEO, Sinophi Healthcare who moderated the discussion, questioned how blockchain proponents are working such an environment.

For Glover, it is a natural combination. He noted that in the drug supply chains, how you track and trace drugs varies according to geography. “In Europe, it is centralized. In the US, we have left it to the market,” he said. He said that regulators can now use blockchain to improve transparency and better regulate the supply chains.

Fazulyanov noted that it is essential that healthcare blockchain innovators work closely with regulators. Meanwhile, Cheung said that the industry is already working with regulators more closely to highlight the potential benefits. "We are trying to facilitate this conversation and make them understand what the blockchain groups are doing," she added.

Future: Owning Your Data

One significant change that blockchain empowers is in data ownership. Currently, wearables and apps collect an immense amount of data, but consumers have very little control over how that data is used or shared.

Enter blockchain. Correctly implemented, it can help consumers to own their health data and dictate how to use it. "My ultimate dream is ensuring my health records are mine; I want to provide authority [for its usage]," Cheung said.

Already, Global ID projects, like Civic, are examining this scenario. "It tries to solve the ability to provide [personal medical data] anytime. I think that is the first step in blockchain [for healthcare]; how to use my data," she added.

Fazulyanov takes it a step further. He noted that blockchain allows consumers to use their data for money. “Why can’t I? I did my DNA test, so why can’t I use the data to make money? After all, people will pay for it,” he said.