Part two of this series exploring the growing intersections of blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) illustrated how this combination is transforming the blockchain ecosystem. The convergence is growing across a number of industries, and healthcare is a prime example. It’s also a fast-growing one. According to Morgan Stanley, the industry’s average estimated budget allocation to AI is projected to grow from 5.7% in 2022 to 10.5% in 2024. Similarly, blockchain’s market size in healthcare was valued at $1.97 billion in 2022 and is expected to expand at an eye-popping CAGR of 68% from 2023 to 2030.
These growth predictions are unsurprising since, used properly, blockchain and AI can be excellent tools for addressing the technological, public policy and personal privacy complexities that are particularly acute in healthcare. The healthcare industry is not only one of the very largest, accounting for 11% of global GDP last year ($9 trillion), it is full of sensitive data, including medical records, claims, clinical trial records, disease registries—nearly every aspect it touches. Yet all too often, sensitive data is not handled properly by either public or private entities, resulting in data leaks and other harmful impacts.
Preventing leaks that can result in criminal charges—for consumers
“Health data has become increasingly vulnerable in recent years, particularly for the millions of Americans who track their menstrual health data in apps,” Anna Hall, founder of menstrual wellness app Embody told Modern Consensus via email. Since Roe v Wade was overturned by the US Supreme Court in June 2022, law enforcement and prosecutors can use digital trails to charge women criminally in the case of a suspected abortion. Mainstream period tracking apps already have a sordid history of sharing this most private data. Flo, one of the leading period trackers, was sued by the FTC in 2019 for selling menstrual health data to third parties such as Google and Facebook. Since then, period trackers claim to be focusing on security and privacy, but women’s data in these apps largely remains vulnerable.
“Embody is the first menstrual wellness app to offer a three-tiered approach to security,” Hall explained. “The public version will be locally stored, fully encrypted, and open source. At Embody, we believe in empowering menstruators with ownership of their personal data and safe tools to build their body literacy. It’s crucial that companies build security into their business model from day one instead of slapping on remedial privacy measures after they get in trouble.” Embody uses cryptography to guarantee the local storage of data and end-to-end encryption.
Blockchain provides privacy, immutability and security. AI is capable of providing large-scale data analysis almost instantaneously, which can facilitate the ability to provide personalized care advice in real time. Looking at three examples—the companies Chronicled, Solulab and BurstIQ—one can see how the pairing of these technologies in real-world applications could change healthcare as we know it.
Improving pharmaceutical supply chains
Chronicled is a San Francisco-based company providing automatic settlement for transactions between life sciences companies. Their blockchain-based MediLedger network addresses inefficiencies in the pharmaceutical industry by eliminating manual processing, revenue leakage, and cash flow delays experienced across the industry. Partnering with major players like Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, MediLedger aims to enhance integrity and transparency in the drug supply chain.
Through a partnership with Parity Technologies (the company started and led by Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood), MediLedger employs Polkadot and the Substrate framework, to automate transaction validation and instantly settle chargebacks. The blockchain aspect ensures secure, immutable data storage, while AI algorithms streamline complex processes like claim adjudication, to enable real-time data processing and decision-making. The solution also directly impacts patient care by reducing errors, and it lowers administrative costs by making the drug supply chain more efficient and transparent. Dozens of pharmaceutical companies participate in the network, including 9 of the top 10 pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Using blockchain to improve clinical trials
SoluLab develops software that incorporates blockchain and AI and integrates it into existing systems. The company has worked with several organizations in the healthcare industry to optimize standards and operations.
One application includes a blockchain-based Certifying Authority System aimed at streamlining clinical trials and healthcare product management. The system uses smart contracts to enforce rules and unique IDs to track provenance and meet regulatory requirements. All stakeholders, from supply chain participants to regulatory authorities, can access this immutable, time-stamped network to verify the integrity and origin of healthcare products. The platform also facilitates real-time tracking and payment processes, and it helps prevent counterfeit drugs, making it a secure, transparent and efficient solution for managing clinical trials.
Optimizing the healthcare journey
The US healthcare system is riddled with inefficiencies and medical negligence, with millions of patients struggling to track the paper trail between insurance companies and physicians. BurstIQ focuses on creating secure, patient-centric health profiles that allow for better coordination between patients, healthcare providers and even medical researchers. BurstIQ uses blockchain and AI to manage and analyze healthcare data. AI algorithms can predict patient risks, recommend treatment plans, and even optimize hospital operations from the information in a blockchain.
BurstIQ also features a data marketplace where individuals can share or monetize their encrypted health data, providing a valuable resource for researchers and offering real-world data for clinical studies. Both security and the potential for monetization are made possible by blockchain technology, which provides transparent, auditable and secure data storage. AI assists researchers in sorting through extensive datasets and deriving actionable insights more efficiently.
The fusion of blockchain and AI marks a paradigm shift in healthcare by fundamentally transforming how data is managed and utilized. Blockchain provides an unchangeable, transparent framework for data storage, bolstering security and privacy, while AI enables rapid analysis of this secure data, leading benefits like real-time, personalized medical solutions. The combined technologies enhance the efficiency and accuracy of healthcare services and introduce a new level of trust and customization for companies and patients alike.