How To Drive Blockchain Technology Value In Life Sciences

Michelle Schooff

Blockchain: Everywhere you turn in life sciences digitization, this ledger system is involved. Fully 83% of executives in life sciences expect blockchain integration in healthcare within five years. Last year’s proof of concept study clearly showed strong results using blockchain in identity trust. PC Magazine mentioned the use of blockchain for legal proof of ownership of unique cannabis strains.

How to drive blockchain technology value In life sciences

Life sciences companies are just starting to invest in digital ledgers technology (DLT) like blockchain. A 2017 survey from IDC showed that a quarter of IT professionals in the industry were already using DLTs or implementing it. Another third was evaluating or planning on evaluating the technology. But why have DLT systems started to become so popular for life science?

DLTs can provide instantly verifiable accountability to the research and development process. Beyond that, it also helps record accurate shipment data. This is important in an industry where environmental control is vital to success. It’s expected that the use of DLTs will rise as investment in digitization increases. But how do we know that this process is happening in life sciences?

Digitization increases the use of Big Data, analytics, cooperative work, and transparency. DLTs such as blockchain improve these aspects without compromising data integrity or security. It’s expected that supply chain, regulatory compliance, and product safety are probably the first blockchain projects for many life sciences companies. Sterilization processes or cold storage and transport of biologics are expected to lead the way for DLT options. Providing irrefutable documentation of this information builds trust between shareholders.

Using blockchain in clinical trials

Let’s look at an example of blockchain use in clinical trials. A pipeline drug can have a number of supply chain issues. Shipping and receiving of the experimental drug and test samples need to be tracked. Proper security, global payment management, and data sharing must also be managed. Smart contracts help improve payments to suppliers and research organizations. Internet of Things sensors can be implemented with shipping processes to update blockchain records. This helps catch potential environmental variances in medications during shipping.

Tracking document exchanges, data sharing, loT genealogy, and internal manufacturing processes can be monitored through DLTs. Now imagine adding this to current track and trace regulations for medications. Electronic product code information service requirements are much easier to manage using systems like blockchain. It provides an unforgeable ledger record that minimizes reaction time to public health crises resulting from medication problems. At the same time, it protects patient privacy by providing limited access to blockchain records.

Measuring overall DLT performance

What kind of metrics can be used to measure performance changes using DLT systems? One option is to look at reported errors compared to the overall process volume. Comparing the existing numbers against a blockchain system can often help your company locate and identify specific discrepancies and issues in the system. Because DLT systems have a unique signature with each transaction, it cannot be modified. This builds trust between supply chain parties, making the reconciliation process faster, easier, and more secure.

To implement blockchains into an organization, stakeholders must first decide which information should fall in a public versus a private blockchain. Sensitive, proprietary, or private information should be kept on a private blockchain so that it is protected. At the same time, data access and sharing must be considered. Who is allowed access and who has the responsibility to read and write to the system needs to be determined prior to starting the conversion process. Before the process goes live, your audit trails will also need to be tested.

By connecting clinical trial management programs to distributed ledgers, your organization’s supply requests, test results, and sensor data can be automated. This process can help speed up and improve the efficacy of the clinical trials. The level of transparency for the data can also help with your patient recruitment. The blockchain ledgers make it easier to improve contract payments and fair compensation while limiting overpayment risk.

How do you successfully add blockchain to your operation? Make sure you benchmark your current business processes. Map that process both before and after adding a DLT system to your operation. Take care in management of ownership and access to both internal and outside information. Ensure that patient and critical data is protected securely. Above all, before starting, figure out whether you have the expertise and resources to set up the system in the first place.

The advantages of using blockchain in life science ensure that this part of digitization is here to stay. DLT systems will help speed up and improve the quality of clinical trials. Companies that take advantage of these benefits will reap great rewards.

Learn how DLT systems can work with your business through SAP Leonardo.

Learn more about this topic in the IDC whitepaper: The Value of Blockchain Technology in the Life Sciences Industry.


Michelle Schooff

About Michelle Schooff

Michelle Schooff is a global marketing director in the life sciences and wholesale distribution industries for SAP. She is responsible for the marketing strategy, messaging and positioning for SAP solutions in the global marketplace. With over 20 years experience in technology and marketing, Michelle builds strategic marketing plans that drive growth, innovation and revenue.