Data Authenticity and Privacy using Algorand

There is a major clinical need for better monitoring of vital signs and other data to identify high-risk patients who are on general hospital wards or at home. Patient deterioration is often overlooked and can cause death, because signs of deterioration are missed or not detected at all. Early detection of physiological instability is crucial to prevent death and disability. As patients prefer to spend their time at home rather than in hospital after surgery and taking into consideration the huge cost savings that can be obtained when deaths are avoided and patients are at home, the advantages for remote patient monitoring are evident.

Recognizing this need to streamline the diagnosis and treatment process, healthcare professionals turned to the Internet of Things (IoT) to monitor patients remotely. However, this poses grave privacy risks and security concerns about the transfer and logging of data transactions. How do you guarantee that the data is accurate and untampered with? The chain, from a remote sensor on a patient to the healthcare team, faces a range of threats, including unauthorized access to protected health information as well as interference with the devices function and outcome.

High-profile scandals haunting big players in recent years (i.e. Facebook’s data being used by British political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica; Marriott getting hacked, affecting half a billion people, etc) have waned consumer trust in Big Data. According to DarkReading, there were an estimated 3,676 data breaches in the first nine months of 2018. And while the European Union’s progressive General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) provided legislation and protections for consumers affected by data breaches, IoT devices have proven incapable of providing this protection against cyberattacks and breaches of privacy.

One solution is to use blockchain technology instead. Blockchain technology not only makes devices more difficult to hack, but it also can show a detailed record of when another party accessed your data. However, one of the primary problems with blockchain is its highly limited scalability.

As sensors in general, but in the healthcare sector in particular, are expected to send data frequently, a truly secure and decentralized blockchain solution is needed that scales well at the same time and requires low energy consumption. Currently existing blockchains can offer at most two of the three properties : security; scalability; and decentralization. Turing award winner and MIT Professor, Silvio Micali, refers to this as the “blockchain trilemma”.

Algorand’s new Pure Proof of Stake (PoS) consensus protocol is the first to solve the scalability issue of blockchain technology. Built on Byzantine agreement, the system can achieve consensus on a new block as fast as the block can be propagated throughout the network. The Algorand protocol scales to billions of users and sustains a high transaction rate — without incurring significant cost to participating users.

For that reason, Algorand is the best platform for us to build our remote patient monitoring system. Algorand allows us to send data safely over the internet, monitor it and immutably store it on a distributed ledger, all at a low cost and using the minimum amount of energy required to do so (Algorand’s PoS protocol does not waste any computational power for hash functions which is crucial in a low-energy IoT environment). Equally important, using Algorand’s blockchain platform allows us to transact in Algos and avoid the need for bank transactions and unwieldy administration.

By implementing the Algorand blockchain technology that will increase the safety and quality of life of the patient, the potential savings in healthcare are calculated at €7,3 million per year per hospital with a capacity of 30.000 patients per year, based on the assumption that our system will reduce:

  • Length of stay of patient by 5% (assumed costs of one day extra is €600)
  • Mortality by 5% (relative risk reduction) and assumed societal cost of one avoidable death is €200.000
  • Readmission rate by 5% (assumed costs of readmission is €6.000)

Summary

There is a major clinical need for remotely monitoring vital signs and other data to identify high-risk patients. However, the chain from a remote sensor on a patient to the healthcare team faces a range of threats, including unauthorized access to protected health information as well as interference with the devices function and outcome.

Algorand’s blockchain technology makes it impossible to tamper with data coming from devices. Algorand allows us to monitor and immutably store data on a decentralized, scalable and secure distributed ledger, all at a low cost and using the minimum amount of energy required to do so thanks to Algorand’s pure PoS. Equally important, using Algorand’s blockchain platform allows us to transact Algos; this avoids the need for bank transactions and unwieldy administration.

Harry Boer

Written by

Harry Boer is passioned about decentralized systems and solutions.

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