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THE impact of blockchain is no longer a matter of imagination and science fiction, writes Richard Singh.
Tech behemoths such as IBM have spent significant resources towards conducting comprehensive studies to understand how vital blockchain can be for healthcare, and dozens of high-octane blockchain start-ups have set out to revolutionise the healthcare space for the better.
The intersection of blockchain, tokenisation and smart contracts with the healthcare industry looks set to pave the way for new and highly-innovative solutions to solve problems that have been festering for decades.
The start-ups in this article, originally published on SingleCare, are utilising the above technologies to fight dangerous and rampant global pharmaceutical counterfeiting, streamline the transmission and storage of medical records, and even create long-term incentivisation-based loyalty programmes for dental communities.
The pharmaceutical industry has been slowly bleeding out to the tune of $75 billion every year due to counterfeit drugs. With more than 100,000 deaths worldwide directly linked to their use, ‘fake pharma’ not only poses a global threat to corporate innovation but also to thousands of people unknowingly taking drugs that may end up killing them.
The fake pharma problem doesn’t show any signs of slowing down; experts estimate that an investment of $1,000 in a counterfeit prescription drug operation could result in a $30,000 return – nearly 10 times the profit of trafficking some hard drugs. To spice up the deal for bootleggers, the criminal penalties for selling counterfeit medications are far less than dealing their more illegal and nefarious cousins, making the profit margins higher and the risks lower.
The rise of internet pharmacies has also made it incredibly difficult for authorities to keep up with the tracking and verification of billions of pills shipped out every year. Many consumers are largely oblivious to the dangers of purchasing drugs online, as millions have been able to buy drugs online without a valid prescription. Stricter regulatory supervision would require a technological asset to help track supply chains at scale.
That’s where MediLedger aims to come in. It is an open and decentralised network for the pharmaceutical supply chain. Blockchain has long been praised for its supply chain applications, and it has already been used broadly in large shipping networks that share similar logistical concerns as the pharmaceutical industry.
Using a project such as MediLedger allows pharmacists and patients to verify the legitimacy of their drugs, and even see minute details such as the date and manufacturing details for each order. It utilises features such as compliance, track, trace and security protocols to create a cost-effective GS1-compliant verification system for pharmaceutical companies. Regulators are also able to use the platform to obtain crucial information whenever needed.
Medical records create several cumbersome responsibilities for doctors, hospitals, pharmacists, and patients, particularly for maintenance and storage.
Medicalchain utilises blockchain to securely store and maintain health records in a single location, allowing for different organisations such as doctor offices, hospitals, pharmacists, laboratories, and pharmacists to request permission to access each patient’s record.
Each patient would essentially be assigned a unique blockchain fingerprint that verifies their identity and provides them will full access and control over their data. Patients will be able to grant different levels of access to various users by setting access permissions and designating who is able to write data to their blockchain.
This feature is particularly notable in the context of the emerging trend of telemedicine, or the online consultation between doctors and patients using a webcam. This would make it possible for patients to grant their digital doctor access to their records, ultimately leading to more in-depth consultations.
Maintaining medical records on the blockchain would not only offer higher degrees of flexibility in treatment, but is also much less expensive than current methods.
Although it might not be your typical healthcare start-up, Dentacoin showcases a unique consumer-facing application of blockchain and smart contracts.
For many people, going to the dentist is an experience forced by circumstance rather than preventative care, and procedures such as root canals can be very expensive and painful. Billions of dinards is spent on dental treatment globally every year, and according to one international dental association, 90 per cent of these expenses can be avoided if patients visit a dentist at least three times a year for early preventative treatments and check-ups, while also establishing healthier dental habits like flossing and better nutrition.
Dentacoin removes the need for big insurance companies acting as intermediaries via smart contracts that link patients directly with dentists. Essentially, each smart contract encourages patients to take control of their pre-emptive dental care. Additionally, patients can earn rewards by providing accurate reviews for each visit to help increase the overall quality of the dental community. Since these reviews are stored on the blockchain, they’re immutable and can’t be manipulated.
Dentists are also being incentivised to ensure long-term dental success for each patient using the Dentacoin network and are rewarded in small monthly contributions of the Dentacoin token, which can later be sold on a variety of exchanges.
Since its launch in August, there are more than 4,000 dentists using the Dentacoin platform.
Experts suggest blockchain enables a fundamental increase in the technological capabilities of multiple sectors that focus on the well-being and longevity of the human population.
The start-ups listed above are not only showcasing how this new technology can impact such a critical industry such as healthcare, but they’re also paving the way for countless future start-ups and applications.