Tal Rapke, Scalamed

Is Blockchain the Future of Digital Health?

By Tal Rapke, M.D.
Tal Rapke, Scalamed

No longer just the domain of bitcoin pundits and tech cowboys, blockchain technology has very real implications for the healthcare ecosystem—if we’re willing to give it a go.

A revolution is coming.

Truth be told, it’s already here. Blockchain technology has the capacity to revolutionize medical database capability—if we choose to embrace it.

Originally developed to provide a distributed ledger of financial transactions that didn’t rely on a central financial institution, the system has the potential to dramatically better patient outcomes by improving access to medical records, imaging archives and prescription databases. With blockchain in its corner, the healthcare industry could ensure patients access to up-to-date data, improving decision-making by doctors, compliance by patients, and service provision by pharmacies.

Tried and Tested

Of course, new systems must be put to the test before widespread adoption can take place—so a trial phase is currently underway to illustrate blockchain’s potential to transform the healthcare sphere. One such example is a digital prescription management system that leverages the latest in blockchain technology to provide a scalable, integrated and decentralized application for patients, doctors and pharmacists. The goal is to create a single source of truth about an individual’s prescriptions.

The system is underpinned by secure blockchain technology, similar to a digital inbox, allowing patients to carry their prescriptions with them on their smartphone at all times. It is a safe, secure and mobile prescription exchange system that streamlines the process of managing a medication. Lost, forgotten or expired prescriptions would become a thing of the past, and patients would be in more control of their medication due to automatic reminders about when to take it, when they’re about to run out, and when they need a new prescription.

Doctors can also view a patient’s entire medication record, allowing them to make more informed decisions about their patients’ health, while pharmacists can see what other medications a patient is taking, preventing the risk of any harmful side effects. If an individual has multiple treating doctors, they can also work together on the patient’s medicine management plan, streamlining the entire process for all parties involved.

Why Now?

In the current system, patients lack choice, they lack data, and they are often at the whim of who is available rather than what is best for their needs. Products are built for diseases and not for individual patients. As a result, many stop taking their medications, leading to billions in preventable costs.

Alongside this unnecessary worry and disruption to patients’ income and livelihoods, doctors also waste up to 25% of their time clarifying historical data and in administration. This kind of prescription management system could help lower healthcare costs by freeing up a physician’s time. The technology could also reduce medication errors and hospitalizations related to adverse events, creating wider healthcare system efficiencies.

How Safe Is It?

The healthcare industry is no stranger to hacking and identity theft, but blockchain technology provides a decentralized platform to ensure data integrity and immutability. Due to the lack of a central data repository, in the unlikely event of a security breach, hackers could only ever compromise one record. What’s more, using Ethererum blockchain means prescriptions are encrypted and secured across a huge network, reducing the chances of fraud.

To the future

The next major advance in medical record management will be transferring the control of patient data from healthcare organizations to the patient—placing the individual firmly in the center of their healthcare journey. The freeing up of patient data is a big leap forward for medicine, and blockchain technology is the vehicle that will make it possible.

It is a healthcare revolution that, if given half a chance, knows no bounds.

About The Author

Tal Rapke, Scalamed