Accenture: Blockchain innovations in life sciences

By Janet Brice
Blockchain could act as a ‘digital passport’ and deliver medicines to patients in the right setting at the right times, with the right dose...

What if innovations in the life sciences supply chain kept up with innovations in medicines and treatments? This is the question posed by consultants Accenture in a new report which focuses on how blockchain could create a ‘digital passport’ for healthcare in the future. 

According to Accenture’s report, In blockchain we trust: transforming the life sciences supply chain, blockchain is becoming increasingly relevant to address the challenges of trust and speed when dealing with medicine.

One of the most complex life sciences supply chain challenges has been the ability to effectively track the origin of a product (or therapy) from raw materials to the finished product. 

“Blockchain technology is an ideal solution, given that no single organisation is responsible for provenance. Blockchain enables the idea of a “digital passport” for a product, containing all relevant information for each component or ingredient, including instructions and patient adherence information from the packaging,” commented Accenture.

“Innovative therapies challenge the traditional life sciences supply chain, increasing the need for secure and authenticated drugs that are delivered without delay and kept at a verifiable temperature. The right treatment needs to be delivered to the right patient at the right time, all through a secure supply chain,” outlines the report.

According to Accenture, within the next three years, 30% of life sciences companies plan to utilise blockchain to open new business opportunities.

“Supply chain applications of blockchain are endless for life sciences companies given the requirements for specialised medicines and therapies. Those that start now - who are willing to experiment, fail fast and innovate based on that experience - will be the organisations to achieve competitive advantage and improve patient outcomes.”

Blockchain is protected by cryptography, that allows a network of nodes to maintain a shared ledger of information which guarantees that, as long as the majority of the network validates the entries ( the blocks) posted to the ledger (the chain) the information can be trusted.

“Blockchain’s ability to generate trust and create the right permissions around the sharing of data allows life sciences companies to break through some of those commercial challenges, enabling better traceability,” commented Accenture.

There are several types of blockchains for the life sciences supply chain, depending on the types of permissions among those sharing information, they include:

Public, permissionless blockchains - this allows access to any user at any time, ledger management is facilitated by the distributed network (Bitcoin or Ethereum)

Federated, permissioned blockchains – this allows access to users based on the rules defined by the consortium in the network (Ripple, R3 or Corda)

Private, permissioned blockchains – this allows access to users based on the permissions set by the private network, ledger management is facilitated by single company for private use (Chain or Bankchain)

“Once all the product data in the supply chain is stored in the blockchain, life sciences organisations will be able to target patients with far more relevant information, such as product availability, detailed product information, and specific product history. 

The ability to tie the patient to the product will not only increase patient satisfaction, but ultimately their ability to manage their own health for better outcomes. Inevitably, blockchain will more effectively deliver personalised medicines to patients in the right setting at the right times, with the right dose,” commented Accenture.
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