WORDS ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR TS DR AFIZAN AZMAN
BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY UNBLOCKS LIMITATIONS IN MANY INDUSTRIES
Created in 2008, blockchain technology is a decentralized ledger that can be used to verify and trace multi-step transactions in healthcare, retail, supply chain, financial industries, and more.
Having reduced compliance costs and speed-up data transfer processing, users can also confirm secured transactions using this technology without the requirement for a central clearing authority.
Closer to home, Malaysia started its efforts in blockchain technology in 2015, with the Securities Commission (SC) and Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) as important parties in the movement.
Moving forward, the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) has said that Malaysia would be adopting blockchain by 2025 and many banking institutions are requested to explore and adopt this technology into their financial systems.
CURRENT PROBLEMS IN THE POST-COVID-19 HEALTHCARE SECTOR
Privacy issues when it comes to medical data
From a healthcare perspective, every healthcare institution treats medical data as a highly privacy-sensitive element. The thought of giving patients control of access to their records and the exchange of health data between institutions raises the risks of data exposure and opens up issues around trust and security.
However, currently the problems of the medical record system include a lack of security, difficulty in transferring medical records between multiple healthcare institutions due to system complications, human errors when recording, storing, and transferring patients’ data, and unwanted tampering of data.
Indeed, post-COVID-19, Malaysia for one has been dealing with issues related to the healthcare system. MySejahtera turned into a national scandal after the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) revealed that the COVID-19 contact tracing mobile application had been developed for the government without a contract with the application developers.
Inefficiencies of an outdated medical record system
When medical records are mixed-up, not up to date or stored incorrectly, this can severely endanger the well-being and health of a patient.
Hence, the inefficiency of an antiquated medical record system will surely jeopardize the patient’s transfer process between different medical institutes due to complications with the patient’s medical data exchange.
These issues can lead to more serious issues down the line
These issues can become a stumbling block that contributes greatly to even bigger, unfavourable problems such as heavy monetary losses to healthcare institutions due to complications with patient’s medical data, which can lead to legal consequences.
HOW BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY CAN ADDRESS THESE ISSUES
Ensures medical data integrity and privacy
Blockchain’s distributed ledger technology in healthcare makes it easier to:
- Transfer patient medical records securely
- Improve healthcare data security
- Control the medication supply chain
- Aid genetic code study in the medical field
It is known that the MySejahtera application had infused blockchain technology into its system during its conceptualization. The application could have functioned better had it covered the whole process ranging from user registration, vaccines supply-chain, contact to Pusat Pemberian Vaksin (PPV), medical officers, and more.
Help address major shortages in medications
The private general practitioner (GP) clinics, pharmacies, and hospitals in Malaysia suffered major shortages of various prescription and over-the-counter medications since last May, due to COVID-19 lockdowns in Shanghai, China, and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
More than an acute problem, the extraordinarily severe drug shortage in Malaysia this year revealed the need to boost the country’s medicine security for future international issues in the global pharmaceutical supply chain, as Malaysia is a net importer of pharmaceutical products.
Blockchain technology can help with medicine shortages through proper analysis at hospitals. Through this data analysis with untampered data, it can help to solve the issue in the pharmaceutical supply chain by establishing proof of ownership. Before reaching patients, drug ownership changes from the manufacturer to the distributor, and then to the pharmacist by easily cloning Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags. Using blockchain’s ability, more features can be periodically added to the chain.
Aid in improving overwork and toxic working culture in hospitals
The issue on the over workload and toxic working culture in public hospitals also can be solved if the Ministry of Health integrates digital innovation into its systems. Many manual processes can be automated and data transfer from one doctor to another can be updated timely at their fingertips, fostering a favourable environment between patients and doctors.
There are several processes and new regulatory procedures related to blockchain that need to be standardized and coordinated.
As a catalyst for change, Malaysia should look into this as a core pillar to move the needle forward. Blockchain technology is ready, and so are we.