Blockchain is the new operating system of the world – Chris Dixon, Co-founder and former CEO of Hunch.
When considering the adoption of new technologies in healthcare, two factors hold greater importance than pursuing cost-effective solutions: safety and privacy. The acceptable margin for error in healthcare is exceedingly narrow, as each decision made in patient care carries potentially life-altering consequences. This is why the guiding principle in medicine remains “do no harm.”
Even when patient safety is assured, another critical concern arises: the privacy and security of their personal data. Safeguarding the information collected while providing care is a core principle in the healthcare industry. In an era marked by illicit data extraction, the exploitation of digital footprints, and manipulative practices, the need to ensure that healthcare innovations withstand rigorous scrutiny of protecting patient data cannot be overemphasised.
Blockchain technology, best recognised for playing a vital role in the development of cryptocurrencies, has expanded beyond its original uses to find use in a variety of fields, including healthcare and medicine. Blockchain can be described as a notebook where multiple people with secure access can write, and everyone can see what is written. Instead of just one person having control, everyone has a copy of this notebook. Now, think of this notebook as a digital book that stores information. This digital book is the blockchain. It’s made up of lots of pages, and each page is a “block” of data.
The intriguing point about blockchain technology is that once something has been written on a page, it cannot be changed. It’s comparable to writing with indelible ink while using a special pen. As a result, whenever new information is added to the blockchain, it is permanently stored there for everybody to see. No one can alter what is written in this digital book without everyone else’s knowledge because everyone has their own copy. This increases the security and reliability of the information in the blockchain.
The immutable and decentralised nature of blockchain offers innovative solutions to longstanding challenges within the healthcare sector, ranging from secure data sharing to streamlined administrative processes.
Here are five ways blockchain can enhance patient data privacy and security within the healthcare sector, with real-world examples of their current applications across various healthcare organisations.
Table of Contents
1. Data Security and Immutability
The critical feature of blockchain is its ability to store data in an immutable and secure manner. Once data is recorded on a blockchain, it becomes nearly impossible to alter or delete it without the consensus of the entire network. This ensures that patient records, medical histories, and other sensitive information remain tamper-proof and secure.
MediLedger is a blockchain-based platform that tracks the provenance of medical products, such as drugs and medical devices. MediLedger uses a distributed ledger to record the entire history of a medical product, from its manufacture to its sale and use. This information is tamper-proof and secure, which helps to prevent counterfeiting and improve the safety of patients.
2. Patient Ownership and Control
Patient-centred care is an essential pillar in healthcare service delivery. Blockchain can empower patients to have more control over their health data. Patients can grant and revoke access to their medical records using cryptographic keys. This lets patients decide who can view their information, enhancing their privacy and data autonomy.
Patientory uses blockchain technology that allows patients to own and control their medical records. Patientory uses a distributed ledger to store patient records, which gives patients more control over their privacy and data.
3. Secure Data Sharing
Multidisciplinary patient management hinges on sharing patient data among various specialists. The decentralised nature of blockchain allows for secure and controlled data sharing. Patients can also grant temporary access to their records when needed, and the audit trail ensures transparency about who accessed the data and when.
MedRec is a blockchain-enabled platform that securely shares medical records between healthcare providers. MedRec uses a distributed ledger to store patient records, which allows for secure and controlled access to the data. This helps ensure that patient data is only shared with those who need it and kept safe.
4. Consent Management
Blockchain-enabled smart contracts can automate consent management. Patients can set rules for how their data can be used and by whom. When conditions are met, such as research purposes, the smart contract can execute automatically, ensuring data usage adheres to the patient’s wishes.
Medicalchain is a blockchain-enabled consent management platform that allows patients to securely share their medical records with healthcare providers, granting access through smart contracts. Patients set specific permissions for each healthcare professional. The blockchain ensures that proper consent is obtained and enforced if a patient’s data is needed for research or clinical trials.
Lastly, healthcare systems often struggle with data silos, making it difficult to share information seamlessly. Blockchain can enable interoperability by creating a unified system where various healthcare providers securely access patient data. This can lead to more comprehensive care without compromising data privacy.
Hyperledger Fabric is a blockchain platform used to develop a system for interoperable healthcare records. The Hyperledger Fabric uses a distributed ledger to store patient records, which authorised healthcare providers can access.
In conclusion, the adoption of blockchain in medicine aligns with the urgent need to strengthen data privacy. Blockchain safeguards patient information by enabling secure data sharing, patient consent management, and decentralised identity solutions while enabling efficient healthcare services and research. The case for data privacy through blockchain is strong, offering a new paradigm for healthcare data management that prioritises security and patient control. However, its successful implementation requires collaboration among stakeholders, regulatory support, and careful design to ensure the technology meets healthcare’s unique requirements.