Could blockchain become the lifeblood of healthcare?
Blood donation, processing, testing, distribution and transfusion is a complex, highly regulated process. Blockchain can support monitoring and traceability from donor to patient.
About 1 in 10 people entering hospitals every day need some kind of blood transfusion – they are a fundamental cornerstone of medicine. Transfusions are needed to replace the blood of those suffering from cancer or other blood diseases and replenish blood lost in serious accidents and medical procedures like childbirth or surgery.
This demand adds up. It’s estimated that, in the US alone, about 32,000 pints (18,184 litres) of blood products (red cells, platelets or plasma) are transfused every day, so keeping a reliable and steady supply of blood is critical. About 4.5 million Americans would die every year without a transfusion.
Donated blood makes its way to patients via complex blood supply chain networks. Especially in a large country, each unit of blood can travel thousands of miles. Units are also broken down into smaller, similarly vital medical products, such as, plasma, platelets and red blood cells.
Knowing where products are, and what condition they are in, is essential to running any supply chain, from minerals to food to consumer products. But with blood, this accountability is even more important – after all, what’s at stake is not the continuing business of impatient customers, but people’s lives. For that reason, the tracking of blood products is highly regulated.
The challenge is to make that system as effective as possible, and to make data from the full length of the supply chain more visible, to deliver even greater benefits.
Building in trust
EY Canada has been working with Canadian Blood Services (CBS) to address this challenge with a proposal to put blood records on the blockchain. The thinking was simple: if this was done effectively, we could provide near real-time visibility and traceability of blood products throughout the system.