Currently all healthcare institutions, whether hospitals, polyclinics or research centers, are drowning in documentation like medical records, research results, statistical data, etc. Blockchain technology can revolutionize data processing in the whole sector.
Healthcare Rallies for Blockchain, a study by IBM, found that 16% of surveyed healthcare executives had solid plans to implement a commercial blockchain solution this year, while 56% expected to by 2020.
“Now is probably the right time in our history to take a fresh approach to data sharing in health care”, says John Halamka, chief information officer at Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
The problem is that today most of the registers in the medical area are miscellaneous and/or monopolized. It is natural that in this situation, distortions, losses and even unauthorized use of data occurs.
In July of 2017, the US Attorney’s Office declared that they were instituting legal proceedings against more than 400 specialists: doctors, front-line workers, pharmacologists, on the charge of medical fraud. During the proceedings, almost 280 medical services suppliers were prohibited from participating in federal health programs, and for some licenses were frozen.
Blockchain technology will unite all medical data in one general register, providing simultaneous access to all the interested parties while retaining a high level of security. This saves time, money and data duplication.
Moreover, if patients want to grant access of their personal medical documents to researchers, their data will anonymously appear for use in research. This could make medical breakthroughs happen much faster than currently.
Cybercrime is increasing all over the world, and healthcare systems are not exempted from becoming targets. Analysts state that healthcare systems have more data violations than any other area.
Messages about selling stolen medical data on the darknet appear regularly, and these data are sold for 10 times more than credit card data. In 2017, a Guardian journalist wrote that he had been able to buy his medical data on the darknet for $22.
With the growing availability of portable medical devices, blockchain solutions could potentially be the infrastructure necessary to provide privacy and safety for healthcare data.
The pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industry are vital for innovations in health care. These companies suffer multimillion dollar losses because of counterfeit medicines which are also dangerous for health. A long and complicated supply chain also makes counterfeiting simpler.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 30% of medicines sold in some parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America are counterfeit. About 10% of all medicines in the world are counterfeits.
Information about public health can be secured, and medicines can be tracked and controlled by blockchains. Hacking or faking a decentralized system is much more difficult.
Medical research centers waste a lot of money on their medical data and statistics.
Maybe this information will help discover medicines for previously incurable diseases.
Blockchain-based medical records can database all diseases and incidents which occurred from childhood to old age: every visit to a doctor, operation, prescribed medicine and treatment. A blockchain enables every patient to decide to whom they will give their personal data. It can be sold to a medical research center if the patient so wishes.
A blockchain uses cryptographic keys for identification. These keys keep anonymity and do not reveal the person. However, name and contact information can be linked to the keys. In health care, such a system provides security of the patient’s personal data and confidentiality.
The patient becomes the “owner” of their personal data. They may authorize medical research centers to access the data or prohibit other physicians from access. The privacy system allows specific people read/write access to the information, or just read access, or even no access at all.
The main principle of a blockchain is that it is impossible to change the recorded information. This guarantees the safety of all data ever included in the blockchain register, and prevents misrepresentation or deletion. Blocks with information about each performed action are placed one after another in a chain with every other block making a reference to the information contained in the previous one.
Although there are some incredibly exciting ways blockchains can enhance healthcare operations, it won’t be a cure-all for the industry today, but it would certainly be a step in the right direction.