A growing number of organisations are leveraging blockchain technology to improve services in the healthcare industry. Because of its diverse applications, including medical supply chain management, patient data security, and drug discovery, blockchain is quickly becoming one of the most promising technologies for improving healthcare outcomes and reducing costs. Blockchain could save the healthcare industry up to US$100 billion per year in costs related to IT, operations, support functions, personnel, and health data breaches by 2025.
Data breaches are a major problem for healthcare organisations. This is largely because healthcare records are valuable to criminals as they often contain sensitive personal information like credit card numbers. Many current healthcare systems are simply not equipped to deal with the growing threat of data breaches.
Related: AI, big data, VR and blockchain expected to power patient-centric applications
Because of this problem, there have been an increasing number of data regulations on how organisations collect, use, and store personal data such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the US. Any individual or business that works in healthcare or with healthcare clients that need access to health data must be HIPAA compliant.
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Blockchain solutions that can help healthcare providers
Fortunately, now there are blockchain technology solutions like decentralised identifiers (DIDs) and Verifiable Credentials that can be integrated into healthcare systems to enable data security, compliance, authenticity, privacy, and portability. These tools can help organisations efficiently use and share data to provide health services and conduct research while providing patients with more ownership and control of their health information.
What is blockchain?
Related: Immunity passports can be blockchain’s breakthrough application
A blockchain is a distributed database that is used to store data in a secure, tamper-proof way. Blockchain’s distributed and immutable nature gives all stakeholders the same source of truth about a piece of certain information, establishing immediate trust between all parties.
Some ways blockchain can be applied in healthcare is that it can be used to track the provenance of drugs or verify the authenticity of data from clinical trials without revealing any personal information of participants.
Decentralised identifiers (DIDs)
Centralised identifiers like email addresses and usernames have often resulted in data breaches by being stored on centralised servers and the misuse of personal information without people’s knowledge. In contrast, decentralised identifiers provide privacy and data security. A decentralised identifier (DID) is a globally unique digital code that can be used to identify an online identity and be applied to objects such as medicine. Because DIDs can be stored on the blockchain, it is much more difficult to hack or steal.
DIDs could be used to verify patients’ identities and access their medical records when they give explicit consent. This helps protect patients’ privacy and safeguard their data from being accessed by unauthorised individuals. Also, DIDs could be used to track the movement of medical supplies.
A verifiable credential is a fraud-proof electronic record that contains information about an individual or object that can be independently verified by a third party. The Verifiable Credentials data format ensures that organisations can share data within and outside their systems, guaranteeing that it will remain tamper-proof and its authenticity verifiable.
In the healthcare context, Verifiable Credentials can be used to store and share information such as immunisation records, allergies, and medications. This information can then be accessed by authorised parties in order to provide better care. Verifiable Credentials can help reduce errors, improve care coordination, and efficiently transfer health data while maintaining patient privacy.
BurstIQ case study
BurstIQ is a blockchain-based platform as a service that gives organisations the ability to build health apps, work apps, life apps, and data exchanges. Because the company’s technology complies with GDPR and HIPAA regulations, they integrated Dock’s Verifiable Credential technology which allows them to:
- Turn any health data into a Verifiable Credential that is portable and secure.
- Enable their customers (businesses) to manage sensitive data.
- Provide people with ownership and control of their personal information.
Dr. Wendy Charles, BurstIQ’s Chief Scientific Officer, has been involved in clinical trials for over 30 years and has extensive experience in regulatory compliance. She has been a leader in helping organisations implement blockchain in healthcare operations.
Use case 1: Individual ownership and control of data
Clarinda is a nurse who uses applications powered by BurstIQ’s LifeGraph platform to easily manage and securely share her data.
The information will be securely packaged and shared as a Verifiable Credential.
Thanks to Verifiable Credentials and DIDs, Clarinda can securely share her information and a verifier will be able to accept it with full assurance that the data is authentic and not compromised.
Use case 2: Verifying skills and experiences
Verifiable Credentials enable staff to build a lifelong record of the skills and experience that they acquire from school, training programmes, and their workplaces. These credentials can be verified instantly by future employers, which makes their onboarding process much faster than traditional verification processes.
Why BurstIQ chose dock
When Dr. Charles was looking for a Verifiable Credential provider, she wanted to choose a solution that was flexible, had privacy-preserving strategies, scalable, and a technology that could be adapted to changing needs and regulations. Dock’s solutions met all of these criteria.
Amber Hartley, BurstIQ’s Chief Strategy Officer, said, “We’ve looked at a lot of the systems that allow you to issue DIDs and VCs and generally, what we’ve found is that Dock is far easier to use than many of the existing tools out there. It can deploy very quickly and it will be very easy for our developers to use the tool.”
Blockchain technology in the global healthcare market was valued at US$531 million in 2021 and is projected to reach US$16.3 billion by 2031. This demonstrates growing interest and recognition of the tremendous impact blockchain can have in the health services.
This article appears in Omnia Health magazine. Read the full issue online today.
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