Blockchain: A Catalyst for the Next Wave of Progress in the Life Sciences Industry by Cognizant
Article Synopsis :
“Blockchain: A Catalyst for the Next Wave of Progress in Life Sciences,” from Cognizant, explores how by applying shared ledgers, smart contracts and strong encryption, life sciences companies can eliminate costly intermediaries while more effectively ensuring security, immutability, transparency, auditability and trust across the value chain.
The beauty and power of blockchain, says this report, is that it operates by consensus. Conventional relational databases are typically owned by the organization providing services, but with blockchain there is no single owner of a transaction. Blockchain networks can be either public (non-permissioned) or private (permissioned).
Use cases for blockchain in pharmaceuticals and medical devices include:
- Data Governance/Records Management: High reliance on ecosystems and partnerships creates a heavy documentation and records management burden. Blockchain’s built-in cryptography makes for an ideal fit.
- Provenance: i.e., the ability to trace origin and ensure the authenticity of the object being traded. A big deal with counterfeit drugs. Blockchain’s traceability works very well here ensuring provenance.
- Handling Patient Sensitive Data: As more medical device activity is enabled by the IoT, blockchains can embed rules to control access to sensitive medical data.
- Disintermediation: An inherent strength of blockchain is that it allows information to be made available to all parties securely, obviating the need for an intermediary. In clinical trials, for example, a permissioned blockchain with participants from pharmaceutical firms, investigators, trial sites and regulators could be created with data shared securely without risk of alteration.
- Internal Process Management: Pharma companies typically use many systems to manage factory operations, such as raw materials, finished goods, scrap management, packaging and labeling. With blockchain, transactions across systems can be maintained in a single shared ledger.
Documented proofs-of-concept include:
- Temperature Excursion: Many pharma products – particularly those biological in nature – are highly temperature sensitive. Blockchain has been deployed to track temperatures across multiple partners (i.e., shippers, warehouses, trial sites).
- Certificates of Medical Necessity (CMN): CMNs substantiate that a treating physician has reviewed the patient’s condition and determined certain services or supplies are medically necessary. Blockchain has been deployed for the certification (and re-certification) of valid CMNs.
- Trusted Data Sharing: Industry acceptance is growing for open internal data storage for product development and clinical trial assessments. Blockchain has been deployed for the trusted sharing of data between publishers (companies) and researchers.
- Drug Provenance: Discussed above. A blockchain has been deployed allowing manufacturers to record drug batches as blockchain transactions tagged with a QR code revealing batch details. The drug batch details are immutable once confirmed on the blockchain.
How best to identify use cases for blockchain? The paper provides us with this handy workflow infographic:
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Digital Insurer's CommentsBanks, stock exchanges, government agencies, and certain technology platforms (e.g., Amazon, PayPal, eBay) derive their value from their role as intermediary—chronicling transactions and enforcing rules between typically unknown parties, creating and maintaining systems of record.
But what if the system itself served as the system of record? That’s what blockchain is all about, and what makes it so dangerous—and potentially liberating. Banks, stock exchanges, and government agencies won’t be obsoleted anytime soon, but certain lesser transactions are ideally suited for blockchain. Are you experimenting with it? You should be.
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