Hyperledger Hyderabad Meetup Explores Blockchain’s Applicability to Healthcare

Guest post: Sai Tejo Kiran E, Co-organizer, Hyperledger Hyderabad Meetup

The Hyperledger Hyderabad Meetup has been growing! Recently, we decided to have a combination of tech sessions and workshops combined with talks from meetup members who have implemented proof of concepts and built prototypes using Hyperledger. Blockchain is a revolutionary technology with the potential to disrupt the way things are currently functioning in many industries from financial services, to healthcare to technology. Specific to healthcare, blockchain has the potential to improve efficiency leading to massive cost reduction.

To give some perspective about the stakes at play for pharma companies, for every 10,000 molecules, just one of them becomes a drug. It takes about 10 years from the time a patent is awarded to the time the drug comes to the market. The process is marred by regulations, audit and compliance, data management etc. A patent is awarded for 20 years, so the scope for monetization is limited to about 8 years until it moves to the generics market and starts being sold it at low rates. So, in this context, if we can reduce the inefficiency in the go to market strategy and reduce the 12 years to 4-5 years, it is a big deal. Eventually it will lead to reduction in cost of the medicine.

A few weeks ago we had an Enterprise Architect from a major international pharma giant in Hyderabad give a talk pertaining to blockchain use cases in the healthcare sector. Below are specific use cases where the benefits of blockchain technology could help improve healthcare he discussed:

  1. Consent management

A patient could provide his medical history into the blockchain, enrich it with the EHR and make it accessible as and when required to the right stakeholders. Consent management using blockchain was a large topic at our last meetup. Enriching the EHR with personal health records from fitness devices/trackers and making it accessible to the doctors with the consent of the patient makes a case for better diagnosis of symptoms. Blockchain could give the control and meditation of data to the true actor, the owner of the data (patients in this case).

  1. Efficiency driving

Blockchain could be used for inter-organizational record keeping (audit and compliance) since a lot of data movement happens between regulators, manufacturers, regulators etc. Data can go stale since a copy is maintained independently by all the players. Tracking the integrity of the content is an important aspect.

  1. Data Integrity and Traceability

Imagine a clinical trial is going on and a patient is going to get some analysis done. The test data comes out as a lab report. Every lab report is maintained in a system managed by the pharma company. All the lab reports data is collated and is sent to the regulatory authorities to communicate the outcome. As part of audit and compliance, the authorities are not confident if the data is being tampered or not which might lead to mistrust. So the auditors visit the premises and validate the data. Blockchain could be a potential solution to improve this process. Every time a vital is collected and the data is taken can we create a hash and store it in the blockchain. Do this for all the patients. Share this with the authorities and send it with link to the hashes on the blockchain. If the data is being modified, then the hashes would not match which indicates discrepancy.

The other benefit which is an outcome of this process is that the data movement, access and ledger maintenance across lab Systems becomes smoother. This in turn will also lead to a process upgrade to the submission system for patent approval in addition to the Legal hold system on the data in case of disputes.

  1. Supply chain tracking of drugs

Blockchain based track and trace, improves provenance and traceability across the supply chain. Counterfeit medicine is a big issue pharma companies face in their everyday operations since there are many stakeholders involved in the supply chain. So the problem statement at hand is,“Can we track the medicine from the source to the destination, working with all the stakeholders using blockchain?” Recall of drugs and avoiding counterfeit drugs from entering into legit marketplaces will help in reducing the losses and improving service delivery to the end customer. Patient access programs also form a very important business proposition for pharma companies. Most of the companies conduct drives around vaccination programs and administer drugs free of cost. They are not running well due to lot of practical reasons involving multiple mediators. Blockchain could be used to maintain the entire supply chain in healthcare.

How is Hyperledger helping?

One of Hyperledger’s incubated projects, Hyperledger Composer, offers a set of APIs, a modeling language and a programming model to quickly define and deploy business networks and applications that allow participants to send transactions that exchange assets. It is more like an IDE tool like Eclipse, but specific to Hyperledger. It is useful for developers since they need to work with models and visuals and let the tool manage the underlying smart contracts and networks. Hyperledger Composer uses extensive, familiar and open development toolset. It is very useful for solution developers and looks at blockchain through three aspects:

  •         Participants – patients, doctors, insurance companies etc.
  •         Assets – patient data, stakeholder data etc.
  •         Transactions – Business rules which govern the exchange of assets

Conclusion

Blockchain technology has the potential to transform healthcare, placing the patient at the center of the healthcare ecosystem and increasing the privacy and interoperability of health data. This technology could provide a new model for health information exchanges (HIE) by making electronic medical records more secure by removing the need for multiple intermediaries.

With greater transparency, trust, and access to data, stakeholders can then also garner insights for better safety, effectiveness, quality, and security of drugs, vaccines, and medical devices. The promise of blockchain has widespread implications for stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem. While it is not a solution for all the health care technology issues, this new, rapidly evolving field provides fertile ground for experimentation, investment, and proof-of-concept testing showing good promise in terms of impact.

For those interested particularly in healthcare and blockchain, please join the Hyperledger Healthcare Working Group here. You can also plug into the Hyperledger community at github, Rocket.Chat the wiki or our mailing list. Be sure to follow Hyperledger on Twitter or email us with any questions: info@hyperledger.org.