Developing a Healthcare Blockchain Solution
Growing organizations aim to bring revolutionary changes to all aspects of their business as technology advances. When it comes to the healthcare industry, the speed of growth is increasing to higher levels and needs to be backed up with the latest technologies as the system is going towards a more patient-centric approach.
Many healthcare organizations still depend on outdated systems to maintain patient health records. Such outdated software keeps the patient medical data in local records that can make the diagnosis:
- complicated for the doctor
From the patient’s personal information to diagnostic reports and doctor’s prescriptions, healthcare organizations currently use the centralized database for saving data.
As the data is stored at a single centralized location, it leads to problems like:
- Identity thefts
- financial data crimes
Due to data theft and spamming, the patient’s data can be misused for many reasons as they don’t control it.
2017 Ponemon Cost of Data Breach Study says that 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 leads to high healthcare costs.
According to a report, the average cost of healthcare data breaches in the USA is $15 million.
Can decentralization solve the data security issues in healthcare? Is it possible to save data securely on the blockchain? Yes. By implementing blockchain technology in the healthcare sector, a lot of these issues can be solved.
IBM’s Institute for Business Value Blockchain interviewed 200 healthcare executives and found 16% of them are willing to deploy a commercial blockchain solution.
Blockchain will have a considerable impact on a patient’s:
- record sharing
- medical research
In this article, we will discuss:
- How does a blockchain-enabled patient health record management solution work?
- What are the benefits of blockchain in healthcare?
- Use Cases of Blockchain in Healthcare
- What are some of the real-world examples of blockchain in healthcare?
Here is a demo application showcasing how a user can access medical health record from a mobile app.
How does a Blockchain-Enabled Patient Health Record Management Solution work?
To integrate blockchain in healthcare, we first need to understand:
- the scope of data
- how it is being generated
- where it is being generated
Whether it is a consultation, diagnosis, or surgery, healthcare companies generate sensitive and crucial medical data at every stage of medical treatment.
The medical data includes:
- the doctor’s prescriptions
- MRI scans
- ultrasound reports
- endoscopy, etc.
Healthcare data comes in various formats like text, paper, numeric, pictures, videos, digital, or multimedia.
IDC reveals healthcare data is expected to grow to 2,314 exabytes by 2020.
Though healthcare centers adopt digital technologies, the patient’s medical records are currently stored in centralized servers. It creates an attack surface for hackers. Accenture’s survey claims one in five employees working in the healthcare sector is willing to sell sensitive medical data to unauthorized parties.
Electronic health records(EHRs) contain exploitable information like:
- place of work
- prescribed medicines
- number of doctor visits
- payment modes
A medical record also includes sensitive protected health information like HIV or cancer diagnoses and psychological conditions.
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Data Enrichment refers to adding value to enhance data quality. Patient’s health records need to be:
Storing unstructured data could lead to:
- delays in the treatment process
It is essential to implement the following three steps to clean and secure the data before storing it on the blockchain:
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 a blockchain is like a 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 access the records stored on the blockchain.
Make it Compliance Ready
Saving data on a blockchain doesn’t mean no-compliance. Blockchain will make compliance enforcement more seamless and transparent. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Compliance ensures the protection of patient data. Healthcare vendors who deal 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. The compliance check must be maintained before the health records get saved on the blockchain.
Add Meta Information and Structure it for Computation
Medical data categorized in multiple formats like administrative claim records, 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 data centralization by storing the digital health records across multiple nodes within the network.
To illustrate how a blockchain healthcare solution would manage the medical records, we have further divided this module into four steps:
- 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.
- Transactions are Completed and Identified Uniquely
Transactions containing patients’ health records are saved on the blockchain with their unique IDs and the patient’s public key. If a healthcare provider wants to access a patient’s public non-identifiable data, the transaction ID is matched, and the information is displayed.
- Healthcare Units can Directly Query the Blockchain
Unlike the traditional process, doctors or health insurance companies don’t need to approach patients to access their health records. Healthcare institutes can submit their queries via APIs and access the patient’s non-identifiable information through smart contracts.
- Patients can Share their Public Key with Health Organizations
Blockchain healthcare solutions can never reveal the patient’s identifiable information until they provide their public key. Patients can share the public key with the health organizations if required. Data would always remain non-identifiable to healthcare providers without the private key. It is similar to how cryptocurrencies are stored on the blockchain, where the owner with the public key is the only one who can 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 can also be used.
Once the data is stored, it can be consumed by different blockchain healthcare vendors using smart contracts.
4. Data Consumption with Smart Contracts
Before the data is shared or retrieved, smart contracts ensure the enforcement of:
- the business rules
- compliance requirement
- the user’s will
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:
- When the data is saved on the blockchain, smart contracts are triggered.
- The Healthcare provider receives the patient’s report with a hash that hides the identity.
- Whenever a diagnostic lab or any other healthcare provider would request to access the patient’s health records, smart contracts would notify the patients.
Smart contracts contain business logic about who gets what.
Insurance companies could only access the information related to billing and patients’ diagnostic reports, but no other details such as doctor’s notes or prescriptions.
Similarly, physicians in healthcare centers could access relevant information, such as:
- the patient’s historical health records
- diagnostic reports
Patients would have ownership of the data, i.e., they can decide what information to share with which entity using smart contracts.
Smart contracts will ensure a transparent, conflict-free exchange of information. In case the user denies to exchange the data, no one could access the patient’s health records.
Healthcare blockchain solutions could also enable healthcare research companies to use health
records for research purposes without affecting their privacy. Read further to understand how.
Healthcare data nowadays is generated using different technologies like:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Internet of Things
- Machine Learning
The generated data can be used for multiple purposes, such as:
- disease prevention
- disease cure
- drug development
- 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 blockchain healthcare platform could use de-identification for hiding the patient’s identity. So, medical research companies could utilize non-identifiable records to carry out research activities.
For example, if a research company wants to get the analytics for HIV disease, smart contracts would enable them to access details while hiding the personal information of patients, like:
- HIV type
- most-affected city or country
- age group
Using Data Mining and AI, along with the blockchain, research companies would discover the relevant data from the large data sets stored on the blockchain.
Now that you understand how a blockchain healthcare solution would work, let’s look at some of the benefits of blockchain technology in healthcare.
What are the Benefits of Blockchain In Healthcare?
There are multiple benefits of blockchain in healthcare, such as:
- A simplified approach to data
- System interoperability
- Control over the data
Let’s discuss them.
- Simplified Approach to Data
Unlike a traditional way of managing information, healthcare records can be shared across multiple nodes using the healthcare blockchain.
The need for storing data in various databases could be removed, hence, enabling the simplified approach to access the information.
- System Interoperability
The inability to exchange 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 data ownership.
Blockchain in healthcare 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 an encrypted form, it remains unreadable to hackers.
The use cases of blockchain in healthcare are endless, and we may find new applications emerging in the market with each passing day. Let’s look at some of the real-world examples of blockchain in healthcare.
Use Cases of Blockchain in Healthcare
Many healthcare organizations and blockchain companies are working on building blockchain-enabled systems to enhance healthcare services for both patients and healthcare professionals. Blockchain is all set to transform the healthcare sector by decentralizing patient medical history, improving payment methods and tracking pharmaceuticals.
Here are some of the use cases of blockchain in healthcare:
- Patient Data Management
Patient Data Management is one of the popular use cases of blockchain in healthcare. Health agencies tend to separate patients’ medical records and make it possible to identify a patient’s medical history without asking previous healthcare providers. It results in a significant amount of time and may lead to mistakes because of human error.But storing health records on the blockchain gives you a transparent and accessible view of medical history. By keeping the patient’s information in one place, it becomes simpler for patients and doctors to view the data.
- Overcoming counterfeit drugs
It is predicted that tens of thousands of people die every year because of counterfeit drugs. Blockchain offers complete visibility into the medical supply chain to track when a medicine has been altered or changed during transit. As a result, the recall of drugs becomes easy and counterfeiting is reduced.
- Accessibility of EHRs
It is difficult to manage EHRs. EHRs provided by one healthcare provider for a patient differ from the other provider for the same patient. Blockchain overcomes the issue of interoperability by allowing healthcare professionals to store the data in one place that can be distributed to all nodes of the network.
- Medical Staff Credential Verification
Similar to monitoring the provenance of medicines, blockchain can also help track the credentials and experience of medical professionals. A blockchain-based platform can be built where trusted healthcare organizations and medical institutes can log the credentials of the staff. It streamlines the hiring process for health organizations. Since the credentials would be stored on the blockchain, they will be more secure due to the immutability of blockchain and transparent to all members of the network.
What are some of the Real World Examples of Blockchain in Healthcare?
Here, we have listed four real-world examples of blockchain technology in healthcare:
Let’s learn more about them.
Developed by LeewayHertz Technologies based in California, USA, TraceRx is blockchain based solution for pharmaceuticals’ tracing and counterfeiting. TraceRX helps UNO to trace free drugs’ distribution and identify any inefficiencies or losses.
TraceRX platform uses blockchain to deal with the problems of theft, recalling, and shipment of pharmaceuticals. It makes the process more secure, transparent, and safe.
Located in Colorado, USA, BurstIQ uses blockchain to improve the way of sharing and using medical information. BurstIQ’s platform allows healthcare organizations to manage a vast amount of patient data securely by ensuring strict HIPAA compliance while enabling:
- safekeeping data
- selling data
- sharing data
- licensing data
As the platform maintains complete and updated patient health information, it has facilitated prescription drugs and opioid abuse control.
Located in London, Medicalchain’s blockchain based platform:
- protects patient identities from outside sources
- maintains records’ integrity
- maintains the records of origin
Medicalchain also announced its telemedicine platform in 2018, enabling patients to consult physicians and specialists via video calls and make payments in “MedTokens.”
Located in Atlanta, Georgia, Patientory’s blockchain platform allows storing and transferring medical information securely.
It supports end-to-end encryption, which ensures the safe sharing of all patient data.
It also enables patients and providers to access, store, and transfer all critical information via blockchain.
We hope that you’ve got a better understanding of how blockchain technology combined with AI and IoT can be irresistible for the healthcare industry. AI-enabled automated health checks reducing cost and time; patients’ immutable health records stored securely on blockchain and millions of devices performing precise diagnoses and finding better – the future of healthcare can be witnessed soon.
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