The European Blockchain Observatory published a sixty-six page report in April 2022 entitled Applications of Blockchain in Healthcare. The authors of this document believe that blockchain could help the healthcare sector to carry out the Healthcare 4.0 revolution. The latter is based on fundamental principles, such as interoperability, digitization, decentralization, etc. This foundation would be compatible with the possibilities offered by blockchain.
Blockchain and health: for better knowledge management
Blockchain would allow the healthcare sector to address concerns related to the need for a :
- knowledge and data management that is flexible and digitized ;
- easy and user-friendly for patients to access their health data;
- allowing the decompartmentalization of the data stored in the current tools.
Such a system would respond to the growing complexity of healthcare. Indeed, these must be supported by an adequate knowledge management tool.
Blockchain is also presented as a technology that could adequately organize the exchange of information at the global level in healthcare. Thus, it could solve some of the problems that hinder collective learning in the sector.
Decentralization for a better follow-up in care
So is centralization necessarily detrimental to the evolution of the health care sector? The problem would lie mainly in the difficulties relating to the implementation of effective centralization. A blockchain would then be an alternative that would allow, for example:
- decentralized monitoring of the use of medical equipment by healthcare institutions ;
- identify deficiencies or surpluses of devices in different geographical locations.
Blockchain is also known to be a tool for improving the tracking of medical products. The goal? To fight against counterfeits that are dangerous to public health, among other things:
“By using blockchains as a ledger to record provenance, vaccines and other life-saving medicines could be monitored and tracked from their origin to their current location, reducing drug placement or labeling errors and the risk of counterfeiting.”
On-chain and off-chain, a synergy to be found for health data storage
However, blockchain does have its drawbacks when it comes to data storage. The transparency and immutability of data stored on a blockchain would be incompatible with the necessary confidentiality of patient data.
However, the authors of the report mention the possibility of combining blockchain with an off-chain solution to comply with legal requirements on the storage of this data:
“To comply with the GDPR, products can use blockchain on a layer above databases: it would therefore be possible to monitor transactions on the data exchange and access the information, while all personal health data is stored off-blockchain.”
The prospects for using blockchain in the healthcare sector are not new. Some companies have been on this path to decentralized healthcare as far back as 2018. In practical terms, have we made enough progress since then?