Is blockchain ready for orthopaedics? A systematic review

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J Clin Orthop Trauma. 2021 Oct 1;23:101615. doi: 10.1016/j.jcot.2021.101615. eCollection 2021 Dec.


INTRODUCTION: The unique attributes of distributed ledger blockchain systems including robust security, immutability, transparency, and decentralisation, make them highly suitable solutions for many healthcare-related problems. This review examines the potential applications for blockchain technology in the field of orthopaedics, by taking a systematic approach to the evolving blockchain literature and mapping potential use cases against the current needs of orthopaedic practice.

METHOD: A literature search was performed using Pubmed, EMBASE, OVID and the Cochrane library with the primary aim of identifying detailed accounts of blockchain solutions and use cases in healthcare. These articles were then reviewed and mapped against current orthopaedic practice to illustrate applications specific to that specialty.

RESULTS: One hundred and forty-one papers were identified which described case studies, simulations, or detailed proposals of blockchain solutions in healthcare. Most studies described blockchain solutions at the simulated or prototype testing phase, with only 10 case studies describing blockchains in “real-world” use. The most frequently cited use cases for blockchain technology involved the storage, security and sharing of electronic medical records. Other blockchain solutions focused on the “Internet of Things”, research, COVID 19, supply chains and radiology. There were no solutions focusing specifically on orthopaedics. Many of the described blockchain solutions had considerable scope for application in orthopaedic practice however, providing the potential for greater inter-institutional collaboration, cross border data exchange, enhanced patient participation, and more robust and transparent research practices.

CONCLUSION: Blockchain solutions for healthcare are increasing in number and scope and have multiple applications relevant to orthopaedic practice. The orthopaedic community needs to be aware of this innovative and growing field of computer science so that surgeons can leverage the power of blockchain safely for the future of orthopaedics.

PMID:34671546 | PMC:PMC8507193 | DOI:10.1016/j.jcot.2021.101615