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Blockchain's impact on life sciences

Andrew Pieri our consultant managing the role
Posted by Andrew Pieri
Published on 15 November 2018

Blockchain has been a tech industry buzzword for all of 2018, and its potential impact on the life sciences sector has certainly been a talking point for organisations the world over. The open distributed ledger records transactions chronologically, publicly and permanently – basically, it’s a living list of linked digital records that can have data added, but not copied or deleted. Its potential for information sharing is enormous across a huge number of industries, particularly within healthcare and life sciences. Here’s what you need to know:

Why is the world so excited about blockchain?

Developed as part of peer-to-peer cryptocurrency Bitcoin, blockchain has taken on a life of its own as a way for governments, banks and organisations to make electronic payments and transactions, provide secure online registers and execute contracts efficiently and safely – that is, with a lower risk of fraud and errors. It’s been particularly anticipated in the markets of financial services, fintech and professional services.

According to Arthur Iinuma, president and co-founder of blockchain development agency ISBX, blockchain is the first technology that enables the transfer of digital ownership in a decentralised and trustless manner. While it’s still an immature technology and development is ongoing, it’s hoped that blockchain’s versatility and transparency will lead to improved data management efficiency and security.

What could blockchain’s influence be on the life sciences and healthcare sector?

With 60% of life science organisations already using or experimenting with blockchain – compared to just 22% in 2017 – it’s safe to say that the sector has been quick to adopt this emerging technology. According to Deloitte, the number of healthcare and life sciences organisations planning to deploy blockchain outpaces other industries. Major players like Pfizer, Sanofi and Amgen are already looking to use blockchain to streamline drug development and testing process, with more likely to follow.

Benefits of using blockchain in these sectors include enhanced collaboration, trust, traceability and auditability across functions such as financial transactions, clinical trials, credentialing and supply chain management. Medical records could be operated on a decentralised blockchain, reducing the risk of unauthorised access, and pharmaceutical companies may be able to securely collect more detailed patient information in real time. The opportunities for blockchain’s use are broad and varied, and as blockchain becomes blockchains (a network of networks), we can expect to see a sophisticated ecosystem that links medtech, pharma, patients, providers, plans and payers touching every part of the life sciences industry.

However, all this potential must be balanced with challenges. For blockchain to be successful in life sciences, multiple stakeholders such as governments, providers and health plans must be unified to form standards. Data security will be a critical and blockchain must uphold privacy standards, particularly when it comes to patient data.

What does this mean for life sciences recruitment?

As blockchain becomes increasingly sophisticated and innovative new ways to use it are discovered, life sciences professionals should adapt or risk getting left behind. The business value-add of the technology is expected to hit US$176 billion by 2025, so we can expect to see more positions becoming available for those who can utilise the technology and apply it to life sciences and healthcare. Employers and employees should look to embrace new technologies such as blockchain in order to maximise opportunities and keep up with an ever-changing business landscape. As with any emerging technology, the true impact of blockchain remains to be seen – but it’s certainly something to get excited about.

Stay up to date with the latest life sciences news on our blog. If you’re looking for a new life sciences job, our current vacancies are a great place to start.</