What is a Digital Trust Ecosystem?

When the PharmaLedger project commenced in 2020, one of our core aims was to promote blockchain-enabled solutions for healthcare, increasing buy-in for the technology among all stakeholders. But throughout the three-year scope of the project, we realised we were building something bigger than technology alone. What actually started taking shape was a Digital Trust Ecosystem (DTE) for healthcare.

A DTE for healthcare involves an interdependent group of actors (enterprises, people, things) sharing standardised digital platforms to achieve a mutually beneficial purpose, underpinned with cryptographic trust (i.e., blockchain). In short, a DTE for healthcare is the external framework through which we achieve a better healthcare experience for all stakeholders, especially patients.

Digital Trust Ecosystems exist in other industries as well. Governmental DTEs and DTEs for finance, for example, form separate but overlapping ecosystems to DTEs for healthcare.

When the PharmaLedger project ends in December 2022, the new PharmaLedger Association (PLA) will inherit its use cases and carry forward the vision of the project. PLA aims to support a DTE for healthcare in order to achieve its objectives of accelerating innovation and adoption of digital healthcare solutions. 

Ecosystem-wide problems demand ecosystem-wide solutions, and as a not-for-profit organisation, PLA is positioned to lead the charge with input and collaboration from all members of the DTE. Solutions that benefit all stakeholders exist, and PLA is committed to bringing them to fruition.

Why do we call it an ecosystem?

Why do we use the word ecosystem in the term DTE? Because there are many actors in healthcare with different purposes, perspectives, and objectives, and the actors are interdependent. Their actions affect other actors in the ecosystem.

It is not sufficient to focus on just one actor. Healthcare solutions that focus solely on protecting the bottom line of manufacturers, for example, do not take into account effects on patients, providers, or pharmacists, just to name a few.

PLA aims to consider all members of the ecosystem, especially patients, when researching, developing and deploying solutions. One way to think of a DTE is as a delicately balanced, encrypted web built on trust and collaboration.

What does a DTE achieve?

A successful DTE for healthcare improves, supports, and sustains the modern digital healthcare experience. Through collaborative innovation, new healthcare solutions are built not to replace but to connect, adding value for all.

Take a look at the image below to learn more about who, what, and how a DTE for healthcare connects, protects, empowers, builds, and sustains.

A successful DTE for healthcare produces real-world results via collaboration. The most mature use case of the PharmaLedger project, Electronic Product Information (ePI), has been selected as PLA’s “go-to-market” product for launch in 2023. 

PharmaLedger’s convenient ePI solution allows anyone with a mobile phone to scan a medical box and receive important product information, offering a searchable, sustainable and secure alternative to paper leaflets that can be updated for accuracy in real time.

The scan identifies the Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN) and the batch number of the product and uses blockchain as a resolver to determine the original manufacturer. The latest approved version of the Product Information is then displayed to the user.

Importantly, PharmaLedger’s ePI solution does not capture identifiable user information. The patient’s identity and use of the app is private information, thanks to blockchain technology that ensures trust and accuracy.

ePI by PharmaLedger grew from the input and collaboration of pharmaceutical companies, patient organisations, and technology and regulatory SMEs, with no single actor holding undue influence over the direction of innovation or the features of the final product. In this way, our DTE and the solutions produced within it are decentralised, mirroring one of blockchain technology’s key strengths: the transfer of power from a central entity to a distributed network.

How will a DTE support the mission of PLA going forward?

PLA promises a venue for innovation and collaboration, where ideas become real-world healthcare solutions. The roadmap for the future extends far beyond ePI, and members of PLA will have the opportunity to guide the association’s priorities going forward. Depending on each member organisation’s level of commitment and internal priorities, they can participate in research, ideation, development, prototyping, incubation, and dissemination.

Future solutions could build on other use cases from the PharmaLedger project, such as detecting falsified medicines, streamlining clinical trial processes, clinical supply traceability, and personalised medicine.

As an association committed to working within a DTE and sustaining it for the future, PLA has several key strengths differentiating it from other initiatives.

  • Transparency: clearly defined decision-making processes and governance structure, with input from all stakeholders. PLA acts for the greater good of the healthcare industry and the global healthcare community.
  • Not for Profit: PLA operates as a shared resource for the common good. All resources are reinvested to further PLA’s mission.
  • Patient Focus: healthcare exists for patients. PLA counts patient organisations as members and commits to promoting patient empowerment and engagement.
  • Global Reach: open to any organisation with an interest in healthcare, anywhere in the world. PLA has the financial, industrial and societal backing to set new Industry Standards for healthcare at a global level.

How do I get involved in PLA and participate in the DTE?

PLA is now open for membership to any organisation with an interest in healthcare. This includes:

  • Manufacturers
  • Distributors and Wholesalers
  • Healthcare Service Providers
  • Healthcare Organisations
  • Academia
  • Standards Organisations
  • Nonprofits
  • Patient Organisations
  • Healthcare Technology Experts

Members are defined by class, with provisions for seats on the Board of Directors:

  • Standard members, represented by up to five seats on the Board of Directors
  • Not-for-profit or public organisations including NGOs, represented by two seats on the board
  • Patient Organisations, represented by two seats on the board
  • PLA Patrons, with a guaranteed board seat

To become a member, submit your interest through the form on the PLA website. After evaluation, membership admission requires completion of a Membership Agreement. Once complete, members may choose to adopt specific PLA products, operate nodes on the PLA network, take part in new developments, submit ideas for new solutions, fund specific projects, add existing solutions to PLA’s portfolio for launch and adoption growth, and more.

Together, PLA members participate in the DTE that will move us forward to a better healthcare experience for all.


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