Today, the health industry is increasingly adopting blockchain technology to innovate the way it functions. Reports have shown that 16% of healthcare executives anticipated a release of a commercial blockchain solutions in 2017, while an overwhelming 90% of health-care companies expected to launch a pilot blockchain project by 2018. But what exactly is blockchain, and how can it help individuals and health-care stakeholders better manage their health?
Use Cases of blockchain in health-care
Blockchain is a distributed ledger system that digitally registers and stores transactions. It originally gained notoriety in 2009 as the technology behind the Bitcoin cryptocurrency and relies primarily on cryptographic techniques. By providing an immutable record of peer-to-peer activity, blockchain enables “trustless” collaboration between parties. Due to its decentralized structure, its systems have peaked interest across a wide range of industries for their potential to increase transparency and decrease costs. The data integrity that comes with this decentralized system has enabled the health industry to recognize its potential. In other words, medical and clinical trial records could be unalterable via blockchain, patient consent data could be easily shared across different jurisdictions, and patient incentives for providing their data could be rewarded via micropayments. In fact, we are already starting to see how blockchain technology is revolutionizing the health-care industry by some prominent blockchain health-care startups such as:
- MedRec, which is applying blockchain smart contracts to create a decentralized content-management system for health-care data
- The MediLedger Project, that uses blockchain solutions for track-and-trace regulations and improves supply chain operation for major pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors
- Connecting Care, a digital-care record system based on blockchain for that shares patient information
- Robomed Network, a blockchain-based medical network that is creating a single point of care for patients by means of digital health-care ecosystem.
It is important to note that blockchain not only offers audit trails for patient records but also offers a versatile range of services to facilitate the health-care industry. For instance, with the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain enables fitness devices, such as smartwatches, to upload clinical information to a decentralized database. Despite these innovations, advanced systems are still needed to efficiently collect and analyze the fragmented health data from wearable devices and public health databases. To support this idea of consolidated patient information, Greg Matthews, the founder of a platform that tracks digital trends in health-care (i.e. MDigitalLife), believes that:
Playpal is one such platform that embodies Matthews’ aspiration as it integrates information from all types of wearable devices through a standardised interface. This functionality enables users to visualize their health capital on a single dashboard. To elaborate, Playpal amalgamates a user’s health data from their wearable devices and health-care databases as well as from information on their genetic, environmental, circumstantial, social and historical health. The user’s health data can then be used and analyzed in conjunction with public health data to recommend health-based options for him or her. Blockchain plays a critical role in the functioning of the Playpal platform because it maintains an irrevocable record of actions taken and changes made by the users.
As a matter of fact, Playpal is based on two independent blockchains: a “health chain”, for recording user health-related information which is stored in off-chain databases, and a “financial chain”, for recording all financial transactions. A user’s actions are validated and indirectly stored on the blockchain and several privacy and security protocols are in place to ensure the data is legitimate and secure. Moreover, Playpal uses a decentralized health cryptocurrency that is issued by its health partner, the HIECOH Wealth Foundation, and is used to reward users for improvements in their health. This exchange in health tokens occurs via HIECOH Wealth’s financial chain to ensure that accountability within the Playpal ecosystem is fully transparent and verifiable.
Aggregation is key
To sum up, the use of blockchain alongside other technologies, such as IoT and machine learning, are set to completely revolutionize the health-care industry. We are already seeing signs of this inauguration with medical start-up companies that are keen to apply technological advances to real-life scenarios within the health-care industry; medical practitioners now have the ability to store data and track transactions related to patient care. Furthermore, individuals and health stakeholders can benefit from new, innovative health platforms like Playpal that are built on blockchain. By combining an integrated ecosystem that has the ability to aggregate a myriad of data sources from wearable devices and public health databases, Playpal’s offering is the ultimate use case for blockchain and motivation.