What Blockchain Technology Could Do For Medical Device Manufacturers Part 2

Storing information about devices on a blockchain. Managing medical devices with smart contracts.

The term “Internet of Things” describes a world in which devices, such as TVs, refrigerators, smartphones, and other are connected to each other and can interact with each other without human intervention. For example, a smart refrigerator could determine that it is running low on a certain food and reorder the food automatically from a website. Then, a delivery could arrive and use a smart lock equipped with a camera to enter the home and deliver the foods. Smartphones could be sending data about exercise routines and results to the doctors and doctors could be adjusting the regimens of their patients. Security is one of the reasons why all of this is not yet happening with medical devices, yet blockchain technology can change the landscape significantly.

For example, manufacturers of medical devices could be entering the serial numbers of medical devices on a blockchain before shipping the devices to sellers and medical professionals. Because a blockchain network is decentralized, meaning that multiple computers on the network contain a copy of all the records, and tamper-proof, the blockchain could be a secure place to store information about medical devices. The information could be available to all interested parties, meaning that the doctors, the government, and the technology staff could verify the authenticity of devices and their current status.

If a device were to malfunction, this information could also go to the blockchain. One of the issues with malfunctioning devices today is that it is not in the interest of device manufacturers to disclose that their devices are not working in the way they are supposed to. This is problematic for a number of reasons. First, some of the manufacturers may try and hide the data. Because of this, the government has to do a lot of supervisory and policy work and the health of patients can potentially be in danger.

Today, if a manufacturer posts something on a website, the manufacturer can later delete the data. With blockchain, deletion of the information would be impossible and all interested parties would have true, up-to-date information at all times.

The blocks of the Bitcoin blockchain record information about financial transactions that occur on the Bitcoin network. Because the Bitcoin network is fully transparent, you can see all the transactions that have occurred on the network since its inception in 2009 using Bitcoin Blockchain Explorer at https://blockchain.info/. For example, if you go to https://blockchain.info/block/0000000000000000000395490008e854d231751825f5d41e3ae07da148acf409, you will see all the available data for block #519870 of the Bitcoin blockchain, including the number of transactions, which for this block is 1097, the volume of transactions (1089 bitcoins) and details about all the transactions that have occurred on the Bitcoin blockchain during the time it took the blockchain to create the block. A blockchain for medical devices could function in a similar manner and include all the information about how a device is functioning. If a doctor or a hospital had issues with a device, they could place the information about the issues on the blockchain. If the issues were to be resolved, this information could also go on the blockchain. This way, the data about the performance of the devices would be available to all interested parties and would also be tamper-proof.

 

Smart contracts for medical devices

Bitcoin is a blockchain application for financial transactions. The Ethereum network in addition to having its own token, Ether, also has Ethereum Virtual Machine, which can run software code including smart contracts.

Before blockchain, contracts were typically created by attorneys and enforced by third parties. A government is an example of such a party.

On a blockchain network, anyone knowing how to code can create a contract. Then, they can run the contract on the network and the network would monitor the status of the contract.

The fact that anyone can code a contract does not mean that they should because the network can’t determine if a contract has certain legal mistakes or has really been written to accurately reflect the will and intentions of all the involved parties. In programming, this is known as “garbage in, garbage out.” The expression means that while a computer can do a lot of useful computations, it will not transform garbage data into quality data. For this reason, it may make sense to hire an attorney when creating a contract, even if it is a smart contract on a blockchain network.

This being said, the possibilities of smart contracts are endless. For example, medical devices may need to store vaccines at certain temperatures. A medical device could monitor the temperature and keep the data on a blockchain. If the temperature goes below a certain level, a smart contract could send a message to the vaccine recipient that the vaccine became spoiled and then initiate an insurance claim with the insurance company. The insurance claim could also be a smart contract on a blockchain network.