The blockchain is a decentralized network of nodes storing the same data. When someone wishes to update the data on one node, it must be approved by the other nodes in the network. As a result, it is challenging to fabricate information in a blockchain-based system, making it an ideal solution for securing sensitive data. Blockchain in healthcare, when combined with other cutting-edge technologies like IoT and AI, it becomes an effective tool for streamlining business processes.
What Is Blockchain?
Blockchain is a peer-to-peer distributed ledger technology that is made up of three main parts:
- Decentralized P2P design: The decentralized P2P architecture comprises nodes made up of network participants who keep an identical copy of the blockchain and are permitted to validate and certify digital transactions for the network.
- Shared Ledger: The network’s members keep track of all digital transactions in a shared ledger. They run algorithms to check the proposed transaction, and it is entered into the shared ledger once the majority of the network’s members approve it.
- Digital Transaction: A digital transaction is any information or digital asset kept on a blockchain. Each transaction is organized into a “block,” which includes a cryptographic hash that allows the transactions to be added in a linear, chronological order.
Blockchain Applications in Healthcare
Blockchain was developed to eliminate the need for intermediaries such as banks and reduce the danger of fraud and theft for people transacting cryptocurrencies. Transparent and immutable record-keeping, such as purchase and shipping transactions in the supply chains of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, as well as the tracking of permits and staff access to facilities, medical records, and other health data, are all essential applications where blockchain has been implemented in the healthcare sector.
1. Blockchain and Traditional Data Management
Traditionally, data is stored on a single central server (or network of servers) with a centralized database manager. Instead, blockchain is a method of data management in which an electronic ledger is tied to the data and disseminated throughout a peer-to-peer network without the data being managed centrally.
2. Blockchain and Data Openness/Immutability
Blockchain is best suited for documenting transactions with a lightweight fingerprint when desired transparency and immutability. In other words, it is better suited to scenarios in which there is less trust between network users. For example, verifying the identities of patients, or vendors, supply chain management, and managing the patient’s dynamic consent for the use of their PHI are all situations in healthcare where blockchain might be highly effective.
3. Patient Consent and Permissions Management
Blockchain can be a transparent and auditable means for people to provide others access to their sensitive health data by utilizing their unique credentials and encryption key. This includes granting access to your medical records to healthcare professionals, service providers, and other relevant actors (such as researchers and social care providers) to provide direct healthcare or enable research, statistics, or other secondary data uses.
Because electronic data may be utilized and reused indefinitely, blockchain-enabled incremental or “dynamic” consent is a particularly effective alternative to “generic” or “one-time” consent models. If a person wants to amend the terms of their permission or consent, they can do so by adding a new block to the chain that overrides the previous instructions.
Shortcomings of using Blockchain in Healthcare Technology
1. Development and Maintenance cost
Although the cost of developing, maintaining, and upgrading a healthcare Blockchain is uncertain, some U.S.-based web development businesses and bespoke software development companies have defined specific charges for these services. However, the actual market norm is yet to be determined. The ultimate decision to deploy Blockchain technology in the healthcare industry is heavily influenced by cost.
2. Blockchain Data and Immutability
One of blockchain’s main shortcomings has always been data immutability, meaning one cannot manipulate data already in the blockchain. It benefits various systems, including the supply chain, financial systems, etc. However, looking at how networks work, you’ll notice that this immutability is only possible if the network’s nodes are evenly distributed. If an entity owns 50% of the nodes or more in a Blockchain network, it may control the available data, making it susceptible. Another issue is that you cannot erase data once it has been written. Every human being on the planet has the right to privacy. Suppose a person who previously used blockchain technology for his private health information (PHI) wishes to delete his trail. In that case, there is no way to erase it, altogether leaving privacy rights in a dilemma.
3. Expert Knowledge
Implementing and managing a blockchain project is complex. It necessitates a thorough understanding of the organization’s procedures to set the foundation right. One of the downsides of blockchain is that it requires subject matter experts. They must also train current employees on using blockchain and ensure that the management team is cognizant of the intricacies and outcomes. Furthermore, blockchain developers and specialists are harder to come by and will cost more than traditional developers.
Also Read, Healthcare PHI Interoperability & Management
Healthcare Blockchain Application Benefits
In healthcare, blockchain can be used in different ways. A few of the most critical applications are data protection for electronic medical records (EMR), data management for personal health records (PHR), and genomic data management.
Only 5% of Healthcare CIOs and 12% of the payer industry have blockchain on their to-do lists. That is why, despite the hoopla, it’s essential to know the possible practical applications of blockchain in healthcare.
1. Patient Medical History — Master Record
Longitudinal patient records, including inpatient, ambulatory, and wearable data, can be created using blockchain, allowing physicians to develop new ways to provide care by aggregating episodes, disease registries, lab results, and treatments. Blockchain can maintain the entire medical history as a single record despite the different care providers.
2. Patient Master Indices
When working with healthcare data, it’s common for records to be mismatched or duplicated. Furthermore, each EHR has a unique schema for each field, resulting in various methods for entering and processing even the most straightforward data. The complete data set, not just the primary key, is hashed into a ledger with blockchain. For example, if we search for a patient using the address, numerous addresses and keys may exist. Still, they will all lead to a single patient identity when records are maintained on the blockchain, preventing duplication and minimizing confusion.
3. Adjudication of Patient Claims using Blockchain in Healthcare
The authenticity of medical insurance claims can be validated with ease because blockchain is a validation-based exchange. There would also be fewer errors or scams because there would be no central authority.
4. Supply Chain Management
Healthcare businesses can use blockchain-based contracts to track supply-demand cycles throughout their whole life cycle, including how the transaction progresses, whether the contract is booming, and any delays.
5. Interoperability using Blockchain in Healthcare
Through sophisticated APIs, EHR interoperability and data storage can use blockchain to guarantee. In addition, if the blockchain network were shared with authorized providers in a secure and standardized manner, the expense and difficulties of data reconciliation could be significantly reduced.
Also Read, What’s driving Blockchain forward?
6. Blockchain in Clinical Trial Recruitment
One of the most critical areas of new drug development is recruiting clinical trial participants.
Clinical trial outcomes can be harmed, and time and money invested in research can be squandered if there aren’t enough qualified volunteers. According to a research paper published in the AMIA Annual Symposium Proceedings, 86% of clinical trials fail to fulfill their recruitment targets on schedule, and 19% of trials are discontinued or canceled due to a lack of participants.
Researchers designed an Ethereum-based blockchain that simulates the recruitment process to confidentially and efficiently attract clinical trial participants. The mechanism has two parts:
- The first part determines who could be a good candidate for a trial based on inclusion and exclusion criteria.
- The second part manages patient enrollment, trial management, and ongoing trial monitoring.
The resulting method allows all researchers to examine trial data simultaneously while maintaining trial participants’ privacy. In addition, the trial’s findings are automatically verified, and the accuracy of all data exchanges is verified. One challenge was presented in that the prototype system’s scalability was limited by Ethereum’s validating method; however, spacing transactions helped performance while processing large transactions.
Blockchain Services for Healthcare Industry
Implementing blockchain-based solutions brings revolutionary possibilities and much-needed improvements to the healthcare sector. Electronic Health Records (EHR) have become the cornerstone of patient care by giving a complete, accurate, and accessible history of each individual’s medical treatments.
However, health information systems (HIS) are becoming increasingly complex, and with that, securing sensitive personal information included in EHRs have become both more imperative to ensure that patients receive the highest quality of treatment. . Hence, blockchain applications in healthcare hold incredible promise to address these system inequities. By implementing solutions in various areas of the healthcare sector, stakeholders including patients stand to benefit from the ability of this emerging technology to address many existing flaws.
Blockchain Services from Payoda
Using Blockchain technology, you can create and maintain an immutable digital ledger of all your business transactions. Payoda helps you decentralize, increase transparency, reliability, cost efficiency, data quality, and enable faster transactions by utilizing Blockchain. We create personalized blockchain systems that manage your digital assets and secure sensitive data using smart contracts and a novel set of consensus mechanisms. With our unstoppable workforce on your side, you’ll always be at the forefront of growth and advancement.
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