Blockchain is a potential game-changer to business however there is no clear and easy route to adoption.
There are still several challenges, including a lack of common technical standards, transaction speeds, verification processes and data limits, which are still being resolved. In a sensitive industry like healthcare, government and regulatory approval is a must to ensure legal clarity.
Despite these challenges, the intrinsic properties of blockchain technology — such as interoperability, data security and authenticity — can help in tackling some of the major problems in healthcare. Some of these areas include:
- EMR: Blockchain platforms can support the entire lifecycle of a patient’s electronic medical record (EMR). For billing documentation it provides robust security and flawless auditability, eliminating redundant administrative units.
- Counterfeit drug prevention and detection: Blockchain can be used to introduce anti-tampering capabilities in the manufacturing phase to ensure pharmaceuticals are genuine.
- Clinical trial results: Blockchain can provide accountability and transparency to the clinical trial reporting process by curating all trials associated with a published study.
- Internet of Things: Patient-generated health and device data from IoT-enabled medical equipment has enormous promise, especially if interconnected with health records accessed by providers and patients.
Information sharing across healthcare
Regulatory requirements, authenticity trust issues and security concerns, are some of the major barriers to information sharing. A better collaboration can aid accurate diagnoses and effective treatments to deliver cost-effective care. Blockchain can remove the problems of unclear data ownership thereby improving data integrity and peer-to-peer accountability. Patient consent can be accurately captured using tailored consent provisions. Since they are recorded in an immutable fashion, healthcare professionals can place complete trust upon it.
Without violating regulatory requirements, it will be possible to collect, store, protect and share health data and enable its real-time use. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) limited the use of health data and delayed its real-time use. With blockchain, a massive amount of records can be used rather than relying on a selected few voluntary releases. Healthcare professionals will gain access to more information generated from patient health records that can result in an exponential increase of samples. This will empower hospitals, patients and other parties in the healthcare value-chain to grant access to their networks without affecting data security and integrity.
Blockchain can also open a new avenue of pseudonymous health recommendations. Individual identities will remain secure while health data is added to the blockchain. Patient recommendations can be made based on this real-time data.
Blockchain also provides a secure and easily authenticated platform for the integration of data from wearables such as fitness trackers and devices using mobile apps. A single patient can generate authenticated and secure health data from multiple devices. By monitoring and accessing their daily health data, tailored health and exercise plans can be created for patients, continually adjusted as results are interpreted.
On the blockchain path
Since healthcare is governed by a complex regulatory network, a secure cloud environment that can exceed the compliance requirements will encourage adoption of blockchain technology in this sector.
IBM Watson Health has partnered with US Food and Drug Administration to explore the use of health data transfers from wearables and other IoT devices using blockchain. One of the major aims of this project is to facilitate the secure transfer of health data and make it easily available to patients, researchers and healthcare providers. The transparency and accountability inherent to blockchain will assure the security of data and reduce the associated risks
Written by: Udit Sharma