August 31, 2017

Blockchain and Healthcare: data integrity and overall patient security, privacy and accessibility

BLOCKCHAIN AND HEALTHCARE

Using Blockchain within the healthcare industry is a fairly new concept. Blockchain has been around for several years, and one of its more famous assets Bitcoin is increasingly in the media. Blockchain is basically a digital ledger that records all transactions that have taken place on it. These transactions are secure, they cannot be edited or deleted. Many see blockchain as a digital currency platform, yes banks are taking advantage of the technology but the technology can be used for anything, such as contracts, messaging, data sharing, file storage, file transfer- anything that needs to be independently recorded and verified as having happened.

Blockchain is also similar to a database which stores information, however, the main difference is that the data is located in a network of personal computers called nodes where there is no central entity such as a government or bank controlling the data. underlying the blockchain principle are cryptographic techniques. This allows each participant in the network to interact without pre-existing trust between parties, in regards to storing, exchanging and viewing information.

Below are some examples where Blockchain technology could be used within the healthcare system:
  • Drug Traceability where each transaction between drug manufacturers, wholesalers, pharmacists and patients can be tracked to verify and secure drug product information important for tackling issues such as counterfeit drugs.
  • Improvement and authentication of health records and the sharing of patient data.
  • Smart contracts where rules are put in place to access patient data. Here, permissions can be granted to selected health organisations.
  • Clinical trials, where altering or modifying data from clinical trials fraudulently can be eradicated.
  • Precision medicine where patients, researchers and providers can collaborate to develop individualised care.
  • Research, by allowing the sharing of resource and computing power to analyse vast amounts of data in a time and cost-effective manner
Blockchain is a cost-effective, scalable solution that could help improve data integrity and overall security whilst increasing privacy and accessibility for patients.

There are many people that consider Blockchain to be a fad. There were also many people that thought the internet would never last. Blockchain technology has the potential to dramatically change many industries and we are in the very early days of the technology. The Healthcare industry and been notoriously slow in the uptake of new technologies so it is unlikely we will see anything for some time. However as data security and integrity become more and more important and the sharing, analysis and storage of vast quantities of data become the daily-norm Blockchain is one tool the industry can use.

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