The paper, written by researchers associated with universities in Scotland, the UK, and the US, looked at the many studies relating to medicine that were published in June 2018 and found 40 new reports that included the keyword "blockchain." It shows "a reflection of the growing interest in blockchain among the medical and healthcare research and practice communities," said the report.
"Blockchain's foundations of decentralisation, cryptographic security and immutability make it a strong contender in reshaping the healthcare landscape worldwide."
The team found that blockchain solutions are being explored for an abundance of use cases in medicine and healthcare, including patient data management, research and data monetization, fraud detection, public health surveillance, the enablement of "truly public and open geo-tagged data," and facilitation of Internet of Things (IoT) autonomous devices.
Last on the list of given use cases outlined in the report was blockchain-enabled augmented reality in crisis mapping and recovery scenarios. Blockchain implementation in this area would provide "mechanisms for validating, crediting and rewarding crowdsourced geo-tagged data." The paper introduces geospatially-enabled blockchain solutions that use a crypto-spatial coordinate system.
Such a system would make geospatial data – that is, data attributed to a certain location – immutable. In crisis mapping and recovery scenarios, this would help to record and validate the data needed to manage an incident, and blockchain technology could provide decentralized mapping provision that is outside of one entity's control, such as with Google Maps.
Despite the challenges faced by blockchain technology developers, including those of interoperability, security, privacy, and commercial sustainability, the researchers state:
"We expect blockchain technologies to get increasingly powerful and robust, as they become coupled with artificial intelligence (AI) in various real-word healthcare solutions involving AI-mediated data exchange on blockchains."
The paper gives a detailed background to blockchain technology as well as an overview of "state-of-the-art blockchain uses in healthcare."
One example given is that of supply chain management in healthcare. The global market for fake, substandard, counterfeit, and grey market medicines was valued at around $200 billion per year in 2016.
The researchers argue that blockchain technology could help to overcome this, in part by being compatible with the US Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). The DSCSA was created to prevent US citizens from receiving fraudulent medications.
Blockchain technology could answer issues of product identification, product tracing, product verification, detection, response, and reporting, as well as being able to record licenses, verification, and product information.
As of April, a government think tank in India is also working on a proof of concept to combat the sale of counterfeit drugs.
Indeed, blockchain use cases and concrete developments are certainly progressing at a fast clip within the healthcare sector. In June 2018, London-based blockchain company, Medicalchain, signed a working agreement with the Mayo Clinic to develop blockchain-assisted medical data storage.