The healthcare industry is facing numerous challenges that include rising costs, increasing demand for personalized care, and inefficient systems for data management and sharing. These issues were recently exacerbated by the global pandemic, which highlighted the need for innovative solutions to improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare services.
In developing nations like Nigeria, people struggle to access good healthcare services. In fact, in some developing nations, their citizens are forced to fly abroad to other developed economies to receive better healthcare, albeit at astronomical costs.
Blockchain technology, which was originally developed to fight the current monetary standard, has the potential to address some of the challenges facing the healthcare industry in both developing and developed nations. It is important to recall that Blockchain is a decentralized and secure ledger system that allows for transparent and tamper-proof data management.
It offers numerous benefits, such as increased data security, improved interoperability, and enhanced data sharing capabilities, which the healthcare sector can greatly benefit from.
Highlighted below are some of the specific ways blockchain technology can be used to improve healthcare provision in Nigeria.
Efficient Data Management: One of the most significant advantages of blockchain technology is its ability to provide secure and efficient data management. The healthcare industry generates vast amounts of sensitive data, and traditional data management systems have struggled to keep up with the demand for secure and efficient storage and sharing.
Blockchain technology can provide a secure and decentralized platform for storing and sharing patient data, which can enhance patient privacy and data security while ensuring accessibility and interoperability. This is in fact already in use. MedRec, a blockchain-based system for managing medical information created by MIT researchers, is being implemented and has greatly improved medical records data management.
Improvement in Clinical Trials: Blockchain can revolutionize the way clinical trials are conducted, by providing a more transparent and secure system for tracking patient data and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. It can also help to reduce the time and costs associated with drug development and supply chain management by providing an immutable and tamper-proof record of every stage of the process. The Clinical Trials Reporting and Results (CTRR) platform is one example of a platform using blockchain to store clinical trial data.
The CTRR platform is a blockchain-based platform developed by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer in collaboration with other companies, including IBM. The use of blockchain makes it easier for researchers and regulators to access and verify trial data, improving the quality and reliability of clinical trial results.
Prescription Drug Traceability: Drug traceability is a crucial aspect of the healthcare industry, as it ensures patient safety and prevents the circulation of counterfeit drugs. The current drug supply chain is complex and fragmented, making it difficult to track the movement of drugs from manufacturers to patients. However, blockchain technology can provide a solution to this problem by offering a secure and transparent system for tracking the movement of drugs throughout the supply chain.
Blockchain technology can be used to create a digital ledger that tracks every step of the drug supply chain. Each transaction or movement of the drug would be recorded on the blockchain, creating a permanent and tamper-proof record of the drug’s journey. The decentralized nature of blockchain ensures that this record cannot be manipulated, providing a high degree of transparency and trust.
Furthermore, blockchain can be used to store additional information about the drug, such as its batch number, expiry date, and manufacturer information. This information can be accessed by authorized parties at any stage of the supply chain, ensuring that drugs are authentic and have not expired.
Supply chain management: Blockchain adoption can increase the efficiency and transparency of supply chain management in the healthcare sector, making it more straightforward to follow the flow of medical supplies and equipment. A blockchain-based supply chain management system utilized in the pharmaceutical industry is VeChain, for example.
One example of VeChain’s use in the pharmaceutical industry is with the Chinese pharmaceutical company, Shanghai HuaZheng. Shanghai HuaZheng partnered with VeChain to develop a traceability platform for their drugs.
The platform uses VeChain’s blockchain technology to record the entire life cycle of the drug, from production to distribution to the end consumer. The platform also uses smart contract technology to automate processes such as quality control and compliance.
VeChain has also been adopted by the Australian pharmaceutical company, Blackmores. Blackmores is using VeChain’s blockchain platform to track the origin and authenticity of its products. The platform provides consumers with a QR code that they can scan to access information about the product’s ingredients, manufacturing process, and supply chain.
Telemedicine: Telemedicine data, including video consultations and electronic prescriptions, can be safely stored and shared via blockchain, enhancing patient access to care. An example of this use case is the blockchain-based telemedicine platform Solve.Care.
Solve.Care has also established specialized Web3 courses for South Koreans in collaboration with Inha University. After completing the program, students will have the skills to redesign, redefine and improve next-generation Web3 digital health networks. Classes will begin in March 2023.
Health Insurance: Blockchain technology can potentially improve health insurance by providing a secure and transparent platform for managing claims, reducing costs, and enhancing patient privacy. By leveraging blockchain technology, health insurance providers can store and share patient data in a secure and decentralized system that is transparent to authorized parties.
This can help to reduce the risk of data breaches and fraud, ensuring that patient data is kept private and secure.
Furthermore, blockchain technology can streamline the claims process by automating tasks such as claim processing and verification. Smart contract technology can be used to automate the verification of claims, ensuring that they meet the necessary requirements and reducing the time and costs associated with manual processing several.
Health insurance companies have started adopting blockchain technology in recent years. One example is Aetna, a US-based health insurance company. Aetna is using blockchain technology to simplify and secure the payment process for its customers. The company has partnered with a blockchain startup called Hashed Health to develop a platform that allows customers to view and pay their bills in a more transparent and efficient manner.
Conclusion: Overall, the potential applications of blockchain technology in healthcare are vast and varied, and its implementation could lead to significant improvements in the quality and accessibility of healthcare services. As such, it is essential for healthcare providers and policymakers to explore and embrace the potential of blockchain technology in the healthcare industry.
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