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US Patent & Trademark Office approves Walmart’s blockchain health patent

Mega US chain Walmart has recently revealed that it has won its blockchain patent for use within the use of storing medical records, which it submitted in December last year.

With the use of health wearables, a biometric scanner and radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, health information will be able to be seamlessly shared with medical professionals, providing up-to-date, accurate information, particularly for those with long-term health conditions or those who take more than one prescription.

Through the use of secure ledger technology, first responders and health providers would gain the ability to unlock and access essential medical data in the case of emergencies, even when a patient is unresponsive.

In its patent application, Walmart has stated:

“The medical record of the patient is stored on a blockchain and includes an encrypted private key and a public key associated with the patient, stored on a wearable device of the patient.”

The wearable will therefore store emergency patient information only, the biometric scanner will work to help medical professionals to establish the identity of the patient, whereas the RFID technology will work to scan the wearable for health data.

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The use of blockchain within the healthcare is gaining traction as technology focused companies turn towards the industry, which is undergoing a significant transformation. The use of blockchain appeals further to professionals due to the complexity in altering data within electronic medical records as a result, Walmart has explained.

BIS Research has also found that blockchain in healthcare is estimated to grow over $5.61bn by the end of 2025, and will introduce transparency, the elimination of third-party intermediaries, and streamline operational processes and escalating costs.

The industry has undergone a number of mergers and acquisitions in order to implement an increasingly consumer/patient-led business model and remain competitive.

From Walmart’s ongoing plans to purchase health insurance provider Humana and discussions to acquire virtual pharmacy PillPack, Microsoft, Apple and Google’s parent company Alphabet have also filed for over 300 health care patents between 2013-2017, according to Ernst & Young.

Blockchain will enable the ability for healthcare to move towards a value-based system, improve patient engagement and even open opportunities for the introduction of more consumer-centric product segments and revenue streams.

It could also save the healthcare industry up to $100-$150bn per year by 2025 in data breach-related costs, IT costs, operations costs, support function costs and personnel costs, and through a reduction in frauds and counterfeit products, the report has found.

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