I am new to blockchain. I am trying to understand the use cases of blockchain as a technology in healthcare. There are number of articles about different cryptocurrencies. I was going through this article at https://www.intelligenthq.com/innovation-management/blockchain-use-cases-in-healthcare/

Here they are talking about blockchain for drug traceability. enter image description here

I am failing to understand how blockchain would help to trace the product which is not digital.? Product, packaging material, shipping vehicles etc. everything is going to be the same. Only probably the labeling will be added with some QR codes. In this case its about identification only than why the existing solution can not work. When they say that the manufacturer produces a drug and would mark the drug with unique code, are they talking about marking each tablet or capsules.? or talking about the container/box..?

Here, if we are talking about cryptography as a solution then whats the problem with traditional cryptography solution is which is being solved by blockchain..?

2 Answers 2


For the purposes of this article, I think tracking boxes/containers would be beneficial, but the more fine-grained the tracking, the better. The way I interpret the blockchain being used in the article is this: For each, say, box, the manufacturer places a unique code. Now, when the manufacturer sells it to the wholesaler, the wholesaler "takes ownership" by adding provenance information to the block chain. The wholesaler knows exactly how many units of the product is received, so the manufacturer's public record of the number of units of the product sold to the wholesaler must match. This prevents two things: the manufacturer cannot turn around and sell products with the same unique code (and cook their books to say they made/sold less product) and, perhaps more importantly, the wholesaler cannot claim to have more product than was actually received.

A dishonest wholesaler who has one container of product cannot make fake product and go and sell two containers of the product to two different pharmacists because the public record shows that the wholesaler only has one container. On the other hand, this does nothing to prevent the wholesaler from secretly keeping the product and selling counterfeits. However, the kept product would only have value in an underground market or to the wholesaler itself.

Traditional cryptography, by itself, does not make the records public and does not prevent "double spending" or replay attacks. A dishonest wholesaler who receives a product with a digital signature from the manufacturer certifying the authenticity of the product could then simply create a fake product, copy the label over, and sell the fake product and the real product. This is the benefit of a public blockchain.


What this case is about: there are areas of economic with potentialy large volume of fakes and/or producers trying to avoid paying extra fees (taxes). Drugs, Alcohol are good examples. Usually governments try to solve this problem by forcing economic agents to use some kind of federal accounting system with excise stamps and all other stuff. But. It costs. It costs a hudge amount of money from budget to develop it and to maintain it. And it works badly.

On the other hand - there is publicly available general purpose registry - blockchain. More specifically, let it be an Ethereum. So how it might looks like in this case?

Drug producer marks every pack with smart-contract token contains production time, place, part number.

Drug store receive it all and for every item call method (for example) "destrubuted" (and store time, organization and store address). When it's time to sell comes - seller call method "sell" (and store time, organization and store address).

And after all - buyer - if he has some suspicions - can call "history" method of contract and see whole way from producer to buer's bag. If some information will be absent or incorrect (for example time and place of sell) - appeal to the authorities.

And all information is publicly aviable and it's "past" cant be changed. And it work on top of common platform so we dont'need to reinvent wheel every time we need it.

  • All these can be done via db or distributed db ,but why specifically with blockchain ?
    – Rangesh
    Aug 11, 2017 at 15:21
  • To my opinion - several reasons. Each can become major in every specific case 1)Reliability & Cost of reliability: you dont need to rent distributed cloud to handle thousands of requests, don't need a people to maintain it 2)Publicly visibility and guaranteed unchanged log of all changes 3)Flexibility: Improve contract code to support new interaction with agents is much musch easier than to call all-theose SAP-Oracle-Other-consultants
    – alatushkin
    Aug 11, 2017 at 15:33
  • @Rangesh. Two key reasons. Bulletproof security, the price of which is the mining fee, and far surpasses what you would pay to secure a private db. Second is mutual trust without a mutually trusted third party. Revolutionary.
    – Sentinel
    Nov 9, 2017 at 21:39

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