Health Information Exchanges
Many health authorities have introduced the concept of health information exchanges (HIEs), to allow patients, doctors, and other staff to securely access and share medical information digitally with each other. This can not only improve the speed, quality, and safety of patient care but also reduce costs.
While complexities around security and privacy, coupled with inefficiencies brought about by legacy healthcare infrastructure, have often made the secure transfer of data difficult, the decentralized nature of blockchain prevents individuals from tampering with assets.
“Blockchain technology is enough a digital ledger or a database to record information. It is extremely difficult to alter, cheat or hack, and it is already changing the concepts of the digital world, such as ownership, privacy, trust and collaboration,” Jonas Lundqvist, CEO of private blockchain provider, Haidrun.
“Although the mechanics of blockchain are extremely complex, the concept is quite simple: decentralize data storage so that it cannot be controlled or manipulated by a single actor. Records of transactions are verified using an advanced consensus algorithm and then cryptographically sold in blocks of data to provide a single, immutable, time-stamped version of the truth.
“With certain types of blockchain, the patient can limit data access and can then choose to share relevant parts of their personal information with providers. In this way, a potential hacker cannot simply use a single patient’s private key to access vast data sets. Instead, the bad actor would need to steal the private keys of multiple users to obtain a significant volume of valuable information. All users within a blockchain can keep their own copy of the ledger or database.”
Use of multiple systems.
Healthcare organizations are increasingly using multiple systems to host patient data. While this can become complex to manage as the number of records grows, blockchain is capable of smoothing and protecting the process of finding and using information.
Giang Tran, Founding Director of akaChain at FPT Software, explained: “One’s medical record and other sensitive information can be stored on the blockchain, which prevents third parties from tampering with the data, as well as from misusing it. However, since blockchain is expensive, an organization applying blockchain to healthcare must be selective about the type of information hidden on the blockchain.
“To facilitate better health outcomes for patients, it is becoming popular to share medical records between different health systems. However, the issue of transparency, privacy, and interoperability remain important.
“A dominant blockchain protocol can help solve the problem. Through the joint effort of establishing an industry standard, blockchain can help preserve privacy as well as facilitate joint coordination between health systems at an affordable cost and thus improve health outcomes.”
Blockchain and IoMT
Blockchain technology applications in healthcare are also being bolstered by the Internet of Medical Things ( IoMT ), a space that connects the wide range of devices used in the sector. By enabling the faster collection of patient data at scale, the infrastructure, combined with blockchain, is capable of providing real-time management of that data.
“As IoMT becomes more common and telehealth gains traction, healthcare is transitioning to continuous care for all the right reasons,” said Sudhir Pai, chief technology and innovation officer at Capgemini Financial Services.
“For example, a typical care management process involves more than 15 stages or handoffs, often involving games involving not only care managers or providers, but also community resources. Blockchain backed by IoMT could enable smart contracts between these diverse stakeholders and potentially help in real-time care remotely.
“Medical management has been leveraging AI to spot next-best actions, but true collaboration in care delivery needs to be underpinned by technology like blockchain. The Metaverse would obviously be the next summit on this journey.”
Barriers to overcome
While there have been many developments using blockchain in healthcare, with successful results, research shows that there are still barriers doctors, physicians, and other staff must overcome before they can harness the full potential of the technology…
John Wise, a consultant to the Pistoia Alliance, expanded on Pistoia’s recent findings of activity within healthcare organizations: “Over the past five years, we’ve seen a growing awareness of the reach of blockchain in healthcare. Our member surveys have seen blockchain awareness among industry professionals increase year on year.
“However, there are still barriers to the mass adoption of blockchain in healthcare. Nearly a third (30%) of pharmaceutical professionals we surveyed cited a lack of access to people with relevant skills as a barrier, along with a lack of blockchain standards (19%) and a lack of interoperability (17%).
“The key to overcoming these obstacles and driving adoption is collaboration. No matter how powerful blockchain becomes, the industry will face challenges until we improve the quality of information shared between organizations. Education is also crucial. To harness technology in healthcare, we must educate the next generation of blockchain experts.”
Hurst, A. (2022h, February 3). Blockchain technology applications in health care. Information age. Retrieved February 7, 2022, from https://www.information-age.com/blockchain-technology-applications-healthcare-123498663/