June 29, 2020 - Parul Saini, Webmedy Team
We are witnessing a rapid adoption of blockchain-based software services, many of them in the medicinal and pharmaceutical fields. Healthcare stakeholders see great power in the use of blockchain technology, and with this comes high expectations. Blockchain can improve confidence among patients and healthcare organizations. Want to know how Blockchain Technology can be used in healthcare? Read on.
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We have seen an exciting rise in the adoption of Electronic Health Records (EHR) technology. Now, many companies are exploring the blockchain technology to transform the way they handle patient data.
One major point of blockchain that is advantageous to healthcare applications is decentralization which makes it feasible to implement distributed healthcare applications that do not rely on a centralized authority. Additionally, the fact that the data in the blockchain is replicated between all the nodes in the network generates an atmosphere of clarity and openness, enabling healthcare stakeholders, and in special, the patients, to understand how their data is handled, by whom, when and how. More importantly, settling any one node in the blockchain network does not affect the status of the ledger since the information in the ledger is replicated between multiple nodes in the network. Hence, by its nature, blockchain can defend healthcare data from potential data loss, fraud, or security attacks, such as the ransomware attack.
Also, the immutability property of blockchain makes it impossible to change or modify any record that has been added to the blockchain. This aligns very strongly with the requirement for storing healthcare records - the necessity to guarantee the integrity and legality of patients' health records.
ARRA 2009 (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) needs all qualified healthcare experts to adopt or show "meaningful use" of EHR. This act stimulated a significant increase in EHR adoption. However, most systems are not capable of sharing their health data, which is one of the biggest challenges of health IT and EHR interoperability. Blockchain technology has the potential to address interoperability challenges by being utilized as a common technical standard to securely distribute electronic health data.
Security and data integrity issues hinder meaningful coordination and collaboration in healthcare. The threat of cyber-attacks and confusing interoperability standards put data at risk and limit the ways it might be distributed and accessed. However, too often data isn't trusted even though it is exchanged, partly because files are corrupted or include errors, forcing to manually correct them. Blockchain technology assures access control through shared public and private chains. While public information is open to all of the network participants, private information is encrypted and can be accessed only by authorized users. Thus, blockchain-enabled systems defend EHRs and ePHI as well as improve the privacy required by HIPAA.
Blockchain's independent structure gives a high-integrity tracking option and enables for refreshing data instantly. Any effort of data modification should be reaffirmed by all the blocks in the system. After confirmation, new data becomes a permanent part of the database and cannot be changed or erased. Blockchain can reduce financial failures as well as substantially stop fraud and illegal data shifting.
As per the 2017 WHO research, 10% of medical goods flowing in developing nations are either low or falsified. It is assumed that at least 1% of all drugs on the market are fraudulent. A blockchain-based system can guarantee a chain-of-custody record, tracing each level of the drug supply chain. Also, add-on functionalities (e.g. private keys, smart contracts) strengthen the credibility of the pharmaceutical supplier at any delivery step and better maintain the agreements between different parties.
Blockchain technology can address the difficulties of result shifting and data snooping. The system enables transferring time-stamped permanent records of clinical trials and research outcomes, hence, decreasing the incidents of scam and error in clinical test records.
It is needless to say, that a medical record is the most complete record about the identification of a person and must be handled in a safe manner. And blockchain is extremely effective in securing the integrity and security of medical records. Because blockchain encrypted data cannot be altered or deleted.
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