It may come as no surprise that COVID-19 significantly accelerated digitalization in clinical research and the pharmaceutical industry. However, new technology introduces new concerns that impact the development of future clinical research. That is also the case with Blockchain technology, introducing many benefits and notable considerations to the field.
Students taking a clinical research program know that trust is a key factor in clinical research, and it is drastically changing in the public eye. In today’s society, trust is no longer given by default but is earned through proof instead. As such, “trusted data” becomes a requirement. Blockchain technology could serve as a potential solution to solidify this trust and, in the process, revolutionize or even disrupt the current clinical research ecosystem.
This blog will provide a brief overview of Blockchain technology, focusing on its benefits and limitations in clinical research for those interested in pursuing careers in the field.
Understanding Blockchain Technology and How it Works in Clinical Research
At its core, Blockchain can be understood as a transaction record. This record reflects time-stamped data entries stored in nodes (or “blocks”) that link to each other, verifying and archiving new data as it builds over time—creating a chronological trail of all transactions. In this way, Blockchain acts as a digital ledger and decentralizes information by duplicating and distributing data across a large network of databases.
Because data is now spread out, it becomes more secure and harder to hack. This also ensures data integrity, keeping the information safe from any falsification or modification efforts. As a result, Blockchain-based systems present a good platform for handling sensitive data, including patient identification and medical records, clinical trial data, and stakeholders’ credentials to list a few examples.
Students earning their clinical research diploma can benefit from learning about Blockchain in clinical research, particularly as it grows in relevance as the industry continues to embrace digital technologies.
Key Benefits of Blockchain Explored for Students in Clinical Research Training
Blockchain technology adds unique value by enhancing quality and transparency in clinical research. Through its time-stamping and time-ordering technical properties, data can be secured and incorruptible. This is particularly noteworthy when conducting case-effect analyses or addressing regulatory processes.
Smart Contracts can also be applied, allowing nuanced conditions (based on “if x then y else z” statements) to automate actions after receiving participants’ consent—thus eliminating intermediaries and boosting time efficiency. Such technology also enhances clinical research by providing a trustworthy algorithm that enforces governance while decentralizing trials, making it easier for patients to participate.
Students in clinical research training can review the following benefits to get a better sense of how Blockchain can impact the future of clinical research:
- Improved patient engagement
- Transparent reporting to regulators
- Secure data tracking
- Facilitating protocols for ethics and compliance
- Automating regulatory processes to streamline research
Notable Considerations When Using Blockchain in Clinical Research
Despite all of its benefits, Blockchain has not been fully integrated by pharmaceutical companies. Tests still need to be conducted in order to prove the efficiency of Blockchain in clinical research—whether or not it could properly live up to all of these expectations.
It should be noted that Blockchain introduces important considerations for current and future research. For instance, researchers using this technology will need to consider its current limitations when scaling up data volumes. They will also need to work in a strong Wi-Fi environment, making it difficult for those in rural communities.
That said, technology is growing and the increasing interest can help boost its development. With so many benefits to look forward to, Blockchain has the potential to be a strong force and a powerful tool in clinical research.
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