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Blockchain and medicine: early or late?

19 March 2018 21:00, UTC
Bogdan Vinogradov

The technology of blockchain has probably been sought to use in every sphere of life. Whether it's selling pizza or managing the state — there must be a project on the relevant topic. Of course, medicine did not go without the attention. IBM's Healthcare Rallies for Blockchain study shows that 16% of the medical leaders, who participated in the survey, intend to use blockсhain in 2018, and another 56% — will do it by 2020. But what decisions are they talking about?

The most obvious option is the storage and ordering of medical records. Loss or damage of data (for example, when moving from one medical institution to another) is excluded in this case. Besides, the inability to modify or delete information about the actions performed in the system "ties the hands" of the creators of corruption schemes. For example, it will get much more challenging to change information about the manufacturer and the cost of drugs purchased according to registries. Healthureum is a typical example of such a project, working with smart contracts of the Ethereum blockchain.

The transparency, regularity, and universality of the records will facilitate financial audits and lead the interaction between the participants of the system to a new level. Thus, if you’re abroad, you won’t have to go to doctor’s there to get a prescription to buy some medicines. All prescribed drugs will be displayed along with a link to the physician. It goes without saying that it becomes much more difficult to forge recipes. At the same time, research and development of future medicines can get faster and more accessible due to blockchain optimization.

Today, the project Medicalchain attracts much attention. This is a decentralized online health data registry with the ability to use additional applications with a variety of functions, for example, distant consultations. One of the founders of Medicalchain, Dr. Abdullah Albeyatti, understands the system inside and out. The platform uses the MTC token. With its help, patients will pay for the services of doctors, who, in turn, will instantly receive all necessary information they need. The indicator of interest is the ICO which was launched on February 1 and immediately achieved a goal of $ 24 million. Dr. Abeliatti called the result "overwhelming and humbling." The success or failure of Medicalchain depends on the attitude of investors to developments in this sphere.

Competition in the rapidly growing segment of the market leads to the fact that developers have to promise more and more options to attract attention. BurstlIQ offers work with large amounts of data, Gene Blockchain has an ambitious goal of studying human DNA. But, perhaps, the creators of doc.ai are the closest to science fiction.

The doc.ai project, created with the participation of researchers from Stanford and Cambridge, will allow users to receive answers to health-related topics... from artificial intelligence! Based on the data in the blockchain, the virtual doctor will give recommendations on proper nutrition, on the health tests and so on. Thus, shortage of health personnel should be solved. As stated in the company's press release concerning WHO, about seven million representatives of this profession are currently needed around the world. The project works on the TokenSoft platform used in more than 50 countries.

What to say? The prospects are brilliant. But we mustn’t forget about the relevant risks and fears.

Still, many people are suspicious of new technologies like blockchain. It is particularly true for government agencies responsible for health. Russian experts emphasize the unusual situation. "In severe Russian reality (and not only in Russia) there should be only one holder of a "large data register "... and better - in paper form, with seals and signatures. And here we are, so forward-minded and smart. We propose the implementation of decentralized distributed "blockchain-storage," which copies individuals can keep (oh my God!)," they say.

Although blockchain technology is currently changing the healthcare industry, keep in mind this is a marathon, not a sprint.

The writer and publicist Bernard Marr echoes these words: "Although blockchain technology is currently changing the healthcare industry, keep in mind this is a marathon, not a sprint." Not each start-up will achieve the goal, and indeed, there will be new standards on an industry-wide basis.

If officials and top managers adopt new technology, it will need much time to get adequately distributed. But many potential advantages are based on an extensive coverage — what's the use of the recording in the blockchain if the suitable hospital refuses to take it into account?

Everything is not clear regarding the safety. Of course, there should be fewer vulnerabilities in the world of chains of blocks and smart contracts theoretically. But in fact, cryptocurrencies and related projects become victims of hackers from time to time. Still, the medical data are valued above the data of the stolen credit cards on the black market...

It seems that new technologies will significantly change our understanding of medicine in the foreseeable future. Anyway, there remain many obstacles on this path — they have to be overcome.