Blockchain in Healthcare
Healthcare is witnessing a transformative change where huge amount of health data of patients is compiled for treatment and prognosis. Data such as genetic information of patients, previous ailment history, nutrition stats are collected and such huge volume of information needs to be stored securely in an efficient system.
Considering the importance of proper record maintenance for healthcare information, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act mandates all private and public healthcare providers to adopt EMR (electronic medical records).
However, such electronic storage of data is not essentially tamper proof. At Howard University hospital,Washington a technician was found guilty of selling critical information of patients for about 17 months! She was charged with violation of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Such inadequate data security can increase susceptibility to security breach and compromised privacy of medical data.
Using basic security measures such as intrusion detection software and firewall is just isn’t enough. Healthcare professional are striving to store their data in a tamper proof and secure way.
Is there a solution?
As per a report from Deloitte, 35% of healthcare companies & hospitals are planning to deploy blockchain within next year. Blockchain in healthcare would answer the issues of interoperability challenges and enable secure data storage. Healthcare industry needs to create frameworks to establish blockchain consortia which will help to foster secure partnerships.
Blockchain is a robust and scalable technology that can be integrated in different facets of healthcare industry like precision medicine (providing individualised care to patients), Genomics research (Genetic identity of patients could be secured on blockchain), drug traceability and blockchain health records.
Some potential uses of Blockchain in healthcare could be :
1) Secure exchange of clinical data and interoperability
Blockchain would enable cryptographically secure and irrevocable data exchange systems to eliminate the burden and cost of data reconciliation. Recently, Guardtime (data security company) and Estonian eHealth Foundation have used blockchain technology by utilizing Keyless Signature Infrastructure. These blockchain health records would secure health information of about one million Estonian citizens along with addressing issues of integrity, security and health data interoperability.
2) Identifying fraudulent claims and bill management
As per a survey United States suffered a massive loss of $30 million in 2016 due to medical fraud. Blockchain in healthcare can keep a check on such malpractices and reduce dependency on intermediaries along with reducing time.Several blockchain based claim management solutions are being developed, the most recent one being jointly developed by Gem Health and Capital One.
3) Medicine supply chain integrity validation
Pharmaceutical industry suffers an annual loss of $200 billion globally due to counterfeit drugs. Blockchain pharma can solve this problem by verifying proof of ownership using smart contracts and private keys. Chain of custody log can be validated by tracking of each step involved from production to storage. Recent advancement is adaptation of ADLT (Advanced Digital Ledger Technology to manage medicine supply chain integrity.
4) Minimising insider data breach
Protenus Breach Barometer report found that in 2016, 27 million patients were affected by health data breach and 43% of these were caused by insider data breach. Blockchain in healthcare will be instrumental in reducing data breaches by elimination single point of fault, bridge gaps and improve reliability. It will also help the evolution of IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) by integrating connected health system to the blockchain system.
Blockchain in healthcare sector could be adopted as an open source software which would eliminate complex point to point data integrations. Such systems would be well equipped to accommodate high volumes of data and would be robust and scalable. Standard protocols, algorithms and data encryption of the blockchain would distribute the data across different nodes thereby eliminating risk of single point failure. Such data collection would also be beneficial for longitudinal studies in healthcare.
Another advantage would be access and availability of real-time data which is critical in clinical care coordination.Blockchain could also be used to monitor clinical trials where data collected from wearable devices and symptoms logged in would enable healthcare researchers to classify individuals into batches of population that responded well to a treatment.