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Survey: Greatest Impact of Blockchain will be in Medical Record Storage

June 28, 2017
by Rajiv Leventhal
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According to a recent survey, 60 percent of respondents believe that blockchain’s greatest impact will be in the storage of medical records, including genomic data—the fastest growing dataset in the world.

This latest research comes from The Pistoia Alliance, a global organization made up of life science companies, technology and service providers, publishers, and academic groups working to lower barriers to innovation in life science and healthcare R&D.

They survey of senior pharmaceutical and life science leaders found that interest in blockchain is high—with a significant 83 percent expecting blockchain to be adopted in under five years. The Pistoia Alliance is therefore urging stakeholders to collaborate on the creation of industry-wide data sharing standards during this early adoption phase. Such standards will improve security and render patients more likely to share their data with companies; benefitting everyone from researchers to patients, both now and in the future, the Alliance attests.

While blockchain offers a potential data housing solution, there are currently several hurdles to its widespread adoption in life sciences, according to the study. When asked, life science leaders identified the biggest hurdle as regulatory issues (45 percent), followed by concerns over data privacy (26 percent).

What’s more, when it comes to use cases of blockchain in pharmaceuticals and healthcare, one possible application is in supporting the supply chain by ensuring an auditable trail to safeguard drug provenance. More than two thirds (68 percent) of pharmaceutical and life science leaders believe blockchain will have the greatest impact in this area, the study found.

This is followed closely by using blockchain to store medical records, including genomic data—where 60 percent of respondents believe blockchain will have the greatest impact. Indeed, genomic data is the fastest growing dataset in the world; recent analysis found it would take 7.3 zettabytes of data to store the genomes of the global population. Genomic data could be stored in ‘blocks’ on a blockchain, but standards for how it is stored and then shared securely will be essential—and this is where the Pistoia Alliance sees great opportunity for collaboration.

“The dynamics of power are changing and patients today have become more empowered—we are seeing a shift to a transformative age of ‘the patient will see you now’,” Nick Lynch, consultant for The Pistoia Alliance, said in a statement. “In the future, patients will even have the possibility of monetising access to their personal data, giving individual companies access to ‘blocks’ of their data for research purposes. This shift—where patients have access to and control over how their data is used—is changing the entire model of healthcare from early R&D all the way to frontline delivery. Ultimately, patients will want to manage their personal data the way they manage their bank accounts. The life sciences industry must collaboratively explore solutions that enable patients to do this, while ensuring they retain access to data for their own R&D efforts,” he said.


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