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How Blockchain can Help the Healthcare Industry

January 25, 2017

It is always great when healthcare and IT can be joined closer together through technical advancements in medicine and/or the computer sciences. The protection of patient data is a high consideration when selecting the type of technical resources that can be used in the healthcare industry.

Patients go from one organization to the next giving out bits of information, but only as they are required to. Changing doctors and hospitals can lead to the loss of patient access to past data, and the provider retains primary stewardship. This can result in potential problems, such as when a patient moves to a new location. Record maintenance can become quite challenging to initiate as patients are rarely encouraged and seldom enabled to review their full records. But blockchain technology may help eliminate these issues.

The Blockchain Technology

This technology is not new, but the possibilities it has in the near future are tremendous. This is due to its security. The data is stored in blocks and as more data is entered, they are amended to the first block, etc. For the tech savvy, HealthIT explains, “The blockchain uses public key cryptography to create an append-only, immutable, timestamped chain of content. Copies of the blockchain are distributed on each participating node in the network. The Proof of Work algorithm used to secure the content from tampering depends on a “trustless” model, where individual nodes must compete to solve computationally-intensive “puzzles” before the next block of content can be appended to the chain.” In other words, hackers must break link 1, before they can hack link 2, etc. McKinsey&Company defines the main four elements:

  • Decentralized validation – All data that is entered is certified, in other words, there is a time stamp and a verified e-signature
  • Redundancy – Since data is always being added, there is no stop point in the chain, it just continues to grow
  • Immutable storage – Trying to change data will also leave a time stamp and only certified people are allowed to touch it. Without the verification, the data is inaccessible
  • Encryption – Through strict digital signatures the data is protected from entry, storing, accessing, or editing processes

Advantages of Blockchain?

As the volume of patient data managed by healthcare facilities increases each year organizations can securely share information and allow each party to verify the data is correct. Primary data sources could be electronic health records (EHRs), health information exchanges (HIEs), data gathered from monitoring systems and IoT devices, as well as medical insurance claims.

Patient data managed by hospitals, doctors, and clinics is increasing each year. With other technologies coming out, like telehealth – which allows the patient to be seen from their home – the increase of patient data at each medical facility will grow even further. The blockchain technology gives a new way of securing this data, and giving the proper access to the right individuals no matter where they are.

Once patient generated data is owned by the patient and sent to the physician it is locked solid. Trust is difficult to find in today’s global economy. The cloud is becoming safer every month, and more companies are counting on that security to store their patient, customer, and employee data. Blockchain technology can authenticate access to medical information quickly and securely.

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