Curing healthcare with a course of blockchain innovation - improving the prescriptions system

In the first of a series of blogs looking at how blockchain can transform healthcare systems, and ultimately patient care, we explain how the current system of prescribing can be improved.

Patient safety is one of the main ethical codes for those in the healthcare profession and prescribers must do everything possible to maximise the information they have in order to make informed decisions and give patients the best care possible. Yet, visibility and communication between parties in the transfer of prescriptions from prescriber to dispenser to patient is still lacking, with prescription and dispensing errors posing a serious threat to patients and costing the NHS up to £2.5bn a year. The process has a heavy dependency on trust with a lack of transparency between parties. In the end, around 1% of prescription drug costs are currently amounted from fraud, waste, and abuse. Not to mention, lack of efficiencies in the process can cause a poor patient experience.

That being said, NHS England’s introduction of an electronic prescribing system has improved efficiencies. This is a technical framework which allows the transfer of prescriptions from prescribers to pharmacists. However, there are security issues regarding this process, with the potential for prescription theft through patient identity theft and it is still possible for patients to receive the wrong prescription. Moreover, the patient will still need to collect a paper token from a GP surgery.

One way to solve this is through the use of blockchain technology. Prescriptions shared on the blockchain would give the pharmacist instant access to the prescription as soon as a GP types it. This means that patients could collect their prescription directly from a pharmacy at any moment of the day after which it was issued. Not only would this make the lives of patients easier, but, with instant access to the prescription, the pharmacist could better manage their own day too - prescriptions can be automatically categorised (e.g. into weekly dispensed and pill box prescriptions, ordinary prescriptions, 6-month weekly prescriptions and optional prescriptions), leaving the pharmacists more time to spend on improving patient care.

A blockchain solution would provide traceability of both the pharmacist and patients’ history. This helps prevent fraud, allows the pharmacist to make better informed decisions for the patient’s wellbeing and also provides a ‘safety net’ for health professionals through providing evidence to support their actions. This audit trail enables better control of drug misuse and reduces drug wastage. The prescriber could use electronic signature or biometric measures to verify the patient and the pharmacist or pharmacy technician could use thumbprint scanning on a portable device to “unlock” the prescription, preventing unauthorised access and reducing the potential for fraud. Prescriptions would be linked to each patient directly through a unique ID method which thus reducing the risk of patients receiving the wrong prescription.

Typographical errors and miscommunication would become less likely as the information would be clear and easy to read. The pharmacist could refuse the prescription and add comments either to query or rectify any mistakes. This would allow the doctor to receive an automatic message and thus resolve queries and errors at a faster rate.

We have just touched on the potential that blockchain has for the future of prescriptions. We believe that we can create a better prescription journey. A journey where patient safety is at the forefront; fraud, waste and abuse are absent from NHS budget; the overall experience provides minimal stress for all parties involved and trust is created through transparency.

For more information visit how blockchain can transform prescriptions. Look out for further blogs on how blockchain can make a difference in healthcare. See how else PwC are using emerging technologies, such as blockchain, to help our clients develop successful long-term strategies.

Ailis Mone

Ailis Mone | Technology Consultant
Profile | Email | +44 (0)7718 978 766
LinkedIn profile