Blockchain and its potential in the medical device and healthcare industries

Blockchain has been highly popularised by its core involvement in the cryptocurrency boom. Blockchain is a decentralised and secure method of storing and transferring data or information. The use of the technology outside of the finance sector and cryptocurrency is currently unpopular, but industry experts expect the technology to be fully embraced by other industries, including medical devices and healthcare. GlobalData estimates the blockchain market will be worth more than $200bn by 2030.

GlobalData estimates that the healthcare industry accounts for 6% of overall global spending on blockchain technology. The healthcare industry’s market share is anticipated to increase over the next ten years as the technology is further integrated. This will be driven by the uptake of blockchain in electronic medical records (EMR) and its integration into multiple facets of the medical device industry. The technology represents a significant opportunity for EMRs since it provides increased security for data storage and data transfer of patients’ private medical data. It can also mitigate the risks of errors in patient records.

Blockchain will be used to empower patients’ control over their medical records and could also be used to share live data from patients’ wearables and medical devices with their physicians. The technology’s integration into medical devices has been less explored, but experts believe its primary role will be in supply chain tracking. The secure network that the technology provides could be used to accurately track medical devices from manufacturing to device installation during patient procedures.

Blockchain’s adoption by medical device manufacturers will likely be driven by regulatory agencies, who would benefit from mandating the integration of this technology to streamline medical device approvals and post-market surveillance. Blockchain will allow patient data and medical device performance data to be collected and reviewed more quickly during clinical trials. The technology could also help prevent the manipulation or falsification of clinical trial data.

New technologies usually require a focus on development, integration and interoperability, but the largest hurdle to blockchain’s integration is the data storage and energy requirements needed to run blockchain platforms. The technology’s data storage and energy usage requirements are expected to be significantly higher than those of currently used methods. Storage availability will be an important issue, especially when combined with the integration of artificial intelligence platforms. Addressing these hurdles is necessary for blockchain technology to be fully harnessed and adopted across the healthcare and medical device industries.

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