Healthcare Blockchain – Healthcare industry uses digital methods for maintaining electronic health records. From the patient’s personal information to different diagnostic reports, and doctor’s prescriptions, healthcare organizations, currently use centralized databases for saving various types of data.
From identity thefts to financial data thefts, data mining, spamming, and profiling, the patient’s data can be misused for many reasons. It happens because patients don’t have control over their data.
According to 2017 Ponemon Cost of Data Breach Study, the cost of data breaches for healthcare organizations is estimated to be $380 per record.
Health Information Exchange is another time-consuming and complicated process that keeps obstructing healthcare industry.
According to 2016 Breach Barometer Report, 450 breach incidents occurred but information was only available for 380 breach incidents and, the breaches resulted in 27,314,647 affected patient records. Could decentralization solve the data security issues in healthcare? Is it possible to save data securely on the blockchain?
According to IBM’s Institute for Business Value Blockchain, 200 healthcare executives were supervised, and it was found 16% of them are expected to get a commercial blockchain solution to manage healthcare institutes.
In the next three to five years, Blockchain will have a considerable impact on patient record sharing, billing management, medical research, and various other medical departments.
Read further to understand how could a healthcare blockchain solution be built to enhance the health record management.
How could Blockchain improve the health record management?
Entire healthcare blockchain solution could be divided into five major stages:
1. Data Generation
2. Data Enrichment
3. Storing health records on Healthcare blockchain
4. Data Consumption with Smart Contracts
5. Data mining and AI in Healthcare Blockchain
1. Data generation
To integrate blockchain into healthcare, first, we need to understand the scope of data and where and how it is being generated.
At every stage of medical treatment, whether it is a consultation, diagnosis, or surgery, different healthcare companies generate sensitive and crucial medical data.
The medical data includes the doctor’s prescriptions, X-rays, MRI scans, ultrasound reports, angiography, radiography, endoscopy, and so on.
Healthcare data comes in various formats like text, paper, numeric, pictures, videos, digital, multimedia, and so on. IDC reveals healthcare data is expected to grow to 2,314 exabytes by 2020.
Though healthcare centers are adopting digital technologies, the patient’s medical records are currently stored in the centralized servers. It creates the attack surface for hackers.
Accenture’s survey claims one in five employees working in the healthcare is willing to sell the sensitive medical data to the unauthorized parties.
Electronic health records(EHR) contain exploitable information like name, address, place where you work, prescribed medicines, number of doctor visits and payment methods.
A Medical record also contains sensitive protected health information like HIV diagnoses, cancer diagnoses, or psychological conditions.
Recently, Grindr dating app has disclosed user’s HIV status, sexuality, GPS position, and other personal details to third-parties.
Sharing protected health information of patients without their consent can make them feel traumatized.
Once the medical data of an individual is generated, data enrichment is done to make the data secure.
2. Data Enrichment- Before storing data to the blockchain
Data Enrichment is a process to add value to enhance the data quality.
Patient’s health records need to be accurate, secure, understandable, time-stamped, and structured.
Storing unstructured data could lead to inconsistencies, delays in the treatment process, and inefficiencies.
It is essential to implement the following three steps to clean and secure the data before storing it on the blockchain.
a. Replace the patient’s identity with the public hash key
A person’s identity can be replaced by a hash, a unique numerical value.
Replacing the user’s identity with a hash would make it impossible for the attacker to decode the identity and protected health information (PHI).
De-identifying the data will remove details including the patient’s name, address, social security number and financial information.
Data stored on blockchain is like your cryptocurrency such as bitcoin saved in the crypto wallet. Though the user’s wallet can be identified with a public key, only a secret private key can help anyone read or understand the stored data.
Any healthcare service provider would require patient consent or authorization to access PHI. If a patient denies sharing the medical data, no healthcare provider could get access to the records stored on the blockchain.
b. Make it compliance ready
Saving data on blockchain doesn’t mean no-compliance. In fact, blockchain will make compliance enforcement more seamless and transparent.
HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Compliance ensures the protection of patient’ data. Healthcare vendor that deals with patient’s protected health information should follow HIPAA’s security measures.
HIPAA’s privacy rule allows all the involved members to access and disclose only de-identified data.
It is essential that the compliance check is maintained before the health records get saved on the blockchain.
c. Add meta information and structure it for computation
Medical data categorized in multiple formats like administrative claim record, clinical registries, biometric data, patient-reported data, or medical imaging should be stored in a structured way.
Organized data enables all healthcare providers to access data efficiently.
Add further information related to the timestamp, demographics, involved stakeholders, and eventually sign and provision the data to be stored on the blockchain.
The completion of the above steps adds value to the data to be stored on the blockchain.
We shall now discuss how health records can be stored on the blockchain.
3. Storing health records on healthcare blockchain
Blockchain can eliminate the risks associated with centralization of data by storing the digital health records across multiple nodes within the network.
Here’s how healthcare blockchain solution could work:
To illustrate how could blockchain manage the medical records, we have further divided this module into four steps:
a. Health organizations store information on the blockchain:
Healthcare vendors can save health records with the patient’s public key on the blockchain.
Smart contracts get triggered to store the information provided by doctors, diagnostic centers, or health insurance companies on the blockchain.
b. Transactions are completed and identified uniquely:
Transactions containing patient’s health records are saved on the blockchain with their unique IDs and patient’s public key.
If a healthcare provider wants to access patient’s public non-identifiable data, transaction ID is matched, and the information is displayed.
c. Healthcare units can directly query the blockchain:
Unlike the traditional process, doctors or health insurance companies don’t need to approach a patient for accessing their health records.
Healthcare institutes can submit their queries via APIs and access the patient’s non-identifiable information through smart contracts.
d. Patients can share their private key with health organizations:
Blockchain healthcare solution can never reveal the patient’s identifiable information until they provide their private key.
Patients can share the private key with the health organizations if required.
Data would always remain non-identifiable to healthcare providers without the secret key.
It is similar to how cryptocurrencies are stored on the blockchain, where the owner with the private key can only access it.
A blockchain can either be a public or a private blockchain. Since a user identity will not be visible in this solution, a public blockchain could also be used.
Once the data is stored, it can be consumed by different healthcare vendors using smart contracts.
4. Data consumption with Smart contracts
Smart contracts ensure the enforcement of the business rules, compliance requirement, and the user’s will before the data is shared or retrieved.
Stakeholders involved in the patient’s treatment can consume the stored data with the patient’s consent.
Let’s understand how different healthcare providers could consume data using smart contracts:
a. When the data is saved on the blockchain, smart contracts are triggered.
b. Healthcare provider receives the patient’s report with a hash that hides the identity.
c. Whenever a diagnostic lab or any other healthcare provider would request to access the patient’s health records, smart contracts notify the patients.
Smart contracts contain business logic about who gets what.
Insurance companies could only access the information related to billing and patient’s diagnostic reports, but no other details such as doctor’s notes or prescriptions.
Similarly, physicians in the healthcare centers could access relevant information such as the patient’s historical health records, age, and diagnostic reports.
Patients would have ownership of the data, i.e., they can decide what information to be shared with which entity using smart contracts.
Smart contracts will ensure a transparent, conflict-free exchange of the information. In case, the user denies to exchange the information; no one could access the patient’s health records.
Blockchain could also enable healthcare research companies to use health records for research purposes without affecting the patient’s privacy. Read further to understand how.
5. Data Mining and AI in Healthcare Blockchain
Healthcare data nowadays is generated using different technologies like AI, IoT, or ML. The generated data can be used for multiple purposes, including disease prevention and cure, drug development, and clinical trials.
But the centralized approach for maintaining the data could hinder the patient’s privacy. Blockchain could be leveraged to bring trust in the clinical trials and medical research process.
As discussed above, the healthcare blockchain platform could use de-identification for hiding the patient’s identity. So, medical research companies could utilize the non-identifiable records to carry out the research activities.
For example, if a research company wants to get the analytics for HIV disease, smart contracts would enable them to access details like HIV type, most-affected city or country, age group, and gender while hiding the personal information of patients.
Here’s what benefits could Blockchain bring to the Healthcare Industry
- Simplified Approach to Data:
Unlike a traditional way of managing information, healthcare records can be shared across multiple nodes using the blockchain.
The need for storing data in multiple databases could be removed, hence, enabling the simplified approach to access the information.
- System Interoperability:
The inability to exchange the healthcare records could lead to delays in treatment. But blockchain could alleviate this problem by decentralizing the data. Everyone within the healthcare network could access a transparent, yet immutable ledger while having the ownership of data.
Blockchain could turn the system highly efficient via real-time processing. It could remove the need for third-party companies, hence, eradicating the delays in accessing the data.
- Control over the data:
Anyone willing to access the health records would require the patient’s public key. Patients could seamlessly control who should access what data.
Since the data is saved in encrypted form, it remains unreadable to the hackers.
Blockchain opens up unique opportunities to create immutable and secure ledger, reduce complexities, and bring transparency. Considering the capabilities of the blockchain in healthcare industries, a decentralized platform could overcome the challenges faced by the healthcare sector. This is the reason that healthcare vendors are experimenting the potential of a healthcare data management solution.
If you are looking for a blockchain development company to develop a healthcare blockchain solution, you can discuss your requirement with our team of experts.
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