How Blockchain Can Better Secure And Protect Our Healthcare Data
Data is a critical asset in the healthcare industry. Many of us don’t realise how our personal information, or Electronic Health Record (EHR) as it is called, is being used or stored. With the increasing rise of IoT (internet of things) devices, there is a higher risk of cyber-attacks and intellectual property theft of healthcare data from; research universities, pharmaceuticals, hospitals, and allied health networks. Recently, the hack of Australia’s major regional hospitals via a suspected ransomware attack shut down appointment systems and reignited fears over patient information security. There needs to be a better way to securely store and manage our healthcare data to prevent data breaches, and this is where blockchain can help.
Blockchain technology is a type of distributed ledger that maintains a permanent and tamper-proof record of transactional data.
That data is owned and managed by a peer-to-peer network of computers instead of a central authority, so it’s fully decentralised and not controlled by one entity. Using blockchain technology, healthcare providers can validate patient identity and record standardised data that is secure and transparent. Authorised participants can add to — but not delete or alter — the transaction logs making it immutable. The blockchain ensures all transactions are encrypted and must be verified by the network, therefore, providing much stronger data security and integrity of records.
The NEM Foundation’s upcoming core engine release, codenamed ‘Catapult’, will represent the industry’s most practical and secure blockchain for any business data. Catapult is an open-source, highly secure solution with massive improvements in speed and scalability. Its plug-and-play nature using API calls allows for fast and easy implementation without having to write new code. Its four-layered architecture enables developers to quickly update a tier without disruption, therefore improving security and performance. Compared to other blockchain platforms, Catapult’s unique algorithm for generating new blocks reduces overhead server costs and is a more efficient and highly cost-effective solution for enterprise adoption.
Catapult’s enhanced security will allow healthcare providers to run secure, decentralised databases, integrating aspects of the healthcare system that have previously been resistant to digitalisation.
In the US, health care providers have trouble managing patient data as each one has its own system for recording data including offline methods. Not only are records susceptible to human error, with referral and appointment details being lost, but there are also opportunities for hackers to steal, delete or modify personal information. Uploading data to the blockchain will ensure that records are up to date, cannot be altered, and can be shared easily with other providers.
Catapult offers more than just enhanced security. It also features the unique multi-layer multi-signature accounts that will allow health organisations to create smart contracts to buy, sell and transfer value (e.g., medical claims data, cryptocurrency payments, intellectual property, etc.) without an intermediary or a third-party. The multi-layer multi-signature feature will allow you to set up different combinations of permissions so that certain conditions must be met before an action is performed. For example, when releasing medical records to another provider, you can set who will need to sign off and approve the release, such as the patient and the doctor before it is sent out. You can add multiple layers of signatures for security, and only when the release has been signed and authorized by everyone, will the records be released.
‘Aggregate Transactions’ are another Catapult-only feature. They are one-time-use smart contracts that group multiple transactions so they all succeed or all fail together. Aggregated transactions merge multiple transactions into one, allowing trustless swaps, and other advanced logic. Catapult does this by generating a one-time disposable smart contract. When all parties have given their approval, all of the transactions are executed at once.
The Catapult blockchain can transform not only the healthcare industry but many other industries, bringing advanced transparency and security to the management of data and personal records. Using the healthcare industry as an example, we can illustrate the benefits of blockchain and how it can be used to combat the rise of cyber-attacks and IP theft. Using high-level encryption and cryptography-driven security will ensure sensitive healthcare data is not only always protected and safe from cyber attacks and theft, it also gives control of personal information back to patients.