Healthcare is one of the many sectors now using blockchain technology.
This article examines how applications of blockchain technology have increased value across the healthcare industry
Blockchain technology has gradually transformed business sectors in recent years, bringing strong data security to all assets stored in its infrastructure. No longer just the domain of cryptography, blockchain is now being used by healthcare providers to protect patient records and strengthen collaboration. In this article, we take a closer look at the key applications of blockchain technology in healthcare today.
Exchange of health information
Many health authorities have adopted the concept of Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) to enable patients, physicians and other staff to securely access and digitally share medical information. Not only can this improve the speed, quality and safety of patient care, but it can also lead to cost reduction.
While security and privacy complexities along with inefficiencies caused by outdated healthcare infrastructure have often made secure data transmission difficult, the decentralized nature of blockchain prevents individuals from manipulating assets.
“Blockchain technology is essentially a digital ledger, or database, for recording information. It’s extremely difficult to modify, cheat or hack, and it’s already transforming concepts of the digital world like ownership, privacy, trust and collaboration,” he said Jonas LundqvistCEO of a private blockchain provider, Haidrun.
“Although the mechanics of blockchain are extremely complex, the concept is simple enough: to decentralize data storage so that it cannot be controlled or manipulated by a single actor. Records or transactions are verified using an advanced consensus algorithm and then cryptographically sealed into blocks of data to provide a time-stamped and immutable single version of the truth.
“With certain types of blockchain, data access can be restricted by the patient, who can then decide to share relevant parts of their personal data with providers. That way, a would-be hacker can’t just use a single patient’s private key to access broad datasets. Instead, the attacker would have to steal multiple users’ private keys to obtain a significant amount of valuable information. All users within a blockchain can keep their own copy of the ledger or database.”
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Use of multiple systems
Healthcare organizations are increasingly using different systems to host patient data. While management can become complex as the volume of records increases, blockchain is able to simplify and protect the process of finding and using information.
Giang Tranfounding director of also known as chain at the FPT software, explained: “The medical record and other sensitive information can be stored on the blockchain, preventing third parties from tampering with the data and misusing it. However, since blockchain is expensive, an organization adopting blockchain in healthcare should be selective in the type of information stored in the blockchain.
“To enable better health outcomes for patients, sharing medical records between different healthcare systems is becoming increasingly popular. However, the question of transparency, data protection and interoperability is still in the foreground.
“A dominant blockchain protocol can help solve the problem. Through a concerted effort to establish an industry standard, blockchain can help preserve privacy and facilitate joint coordination between healthcare systems at an affordable cost, thereby improving healthcare outcomes.”
Blockchain and IoMT
Applications of blockchain technology in healthcare are also supported by the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), a space connecting the multitude of devices used in this sector. The infrastructure that enables faster large-scale collection of patient data, combined with blockchain, is capable of providing real-time management of that data.
“As IoMT and telemedicine become more prevalent, healthcare is transforming into a continuum of care for all the right reasons,” he said Sudhir PaiChief Technology & Innovation Officer at Capgemini Financial Services.
“For example, a typical care management process involves more than 15 states or handoffs, often dealing not only with the care managers or providers, but also with community resources. The blockchain powered by IoMT could enable smart contracts between these disparate stakeholders and potentially help with real-time remote support.
“Medical management uses AI to identify the next best course of action, but true collaboration in care needs to be supported by a technology like blockchain. The Metaverse would obviously be the next summit on this journey.”
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to overcome barriers
While healthcare has seen many developments with successful results, research shows that physicians, clinicians and other workers still have obstacles to overcome before realizing the technology’s full potential.
John Wiseconsultant at Pistoia Allianceextended to Pistoia current findings from working within healthcare organizations: “Over the past five years, we have noticed a growing awareness of the possibilities of blockchain in healthcare. Our member surveys have shown that blockchain awareness among industry professionals is increasing year on year.
“However, there are still barriers to mass adoption of blockchain in healthcare. Almost a third (30%) of the pharmaceutical professionals we surveyed cited lack of access to people with relevant skills as a barrier, along with the lack of blockchain standards (19%) and lack of interoperability (17%).
“The key to overcoming these hurdles and driving adoption is collaboration. Regardless of how powerful blockchain becomes, the industry will face challenges until we improve the quality of information being exchanged between organizations. Education is also crucial. To reap the benefits of technology in healthcare, we need to educate the next generation of blockchain professionals.”