Blockchain could help disrupt clinical trials, make them more reliable

Blockchain Technology

Blockchain technology has proved its mettle over and over again in different sectors of industry – be it finance or health care. Recently blockchain technology has been applied to clinical trials and results indicate that the technology has the potential of increasing reliability of outcomes by manyfolds all the while ensuring data integrity.

One of the major issues with clinical trials is that participants do not stick around throughout the duration of the trial or do not report correct data. In order for clinical trials to succeed or at least provide data that is worth further research, participants are required to provide accurate information about the effects of the trial drug, chemical, or action on their targeted symptom and timing at which they took the related actions or medications.

Scientists have time and again showed that human input is flawed by nature because we are all different and because of this data collection and data integrity is of paramount importance. Further this same flaw is what makes clinical trials so necessary and important as it allows researchers to garner a more wider picture on which they can base their findings.

Sometimes patients forget to take their medicine–on time, or otherwise. False reporting has occurred in the past when patients take their medication late but mark as though they had taken it on time for fear of reprisal or removal from the program. Data can be collected at fluctuating intervals, resulting in inconsistent data for metrics such as concentration in the bloodstream or stress level. Fraudulent or incorrect information can impact more than just the statistical accuracy of clinical trials, it can cause trials to be thrown out, inaccurately regulated, or even cancelled.

Clinical trials rely heavily on information being correct, secure, and accurately timed. Information has to be three things to be valuable–precise, relevant, and accurate. Traditionally, information assurance meant having a few set locations or one location with specific personnel collecting data.

In order to ensure accurate regulation for drugs, chemicals, and processes, clinical trials must make use of available technology to keep information precise, relevant, and accurate.

Clinical trials can be significantly improved by relying on a non-human system for reporting check-in or dosing times. Traditionally, Clinical trials have relied on set locations and qualified, reliable personnel to collect information. But forcing individuals to repeatedly perform inconvenient tasks while trying to manage their lives does not have the best track record of success.

Blockchain technology, biometrics advances, and leaps in infrastructure and computing availability have provided the necessary components for making clinical trials more convenient, timestamping accurate to the second, and information secure on a permissioned network.

Blockchain networks are resistant to fraud as a result of their nature. Blockchain networks rely on immutable and unalterable records to maintain data integrity, resulting in a significantly lower potential for information to be changed, and less potential motivation for fraudulent reporting in the first place, because it cannot be changed at a later date.

Researchers have studied the effects of using a permissioned, Ethereum-based blockchain to secure the reporting vector and results of a synthetic clinical trial for TamiFlu. The study showed that smart contracts on secure blockchain networks can reliably be used for clinical trial data.

Blockchain technology allows clinical trials to be monitored from a wider variety of locations, use of a wider base of staff, and higher levels of information security. By expanding the potential for location variability and staffing options, blockchain technology allows clinical trials to offer more convenient options for participants to check-in and report their results. More convenient locations are likely to result in higher rates of retention and trial completion.

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