Blockchain presents an innovative vehicle to manage medical records, ensuring interoperability without compromising security. It also protects the patient’s privacy, allowing patients to choose who can see their data.
Investments in this technology would be compensated by returns since the systems interface leads to greater collaboration between patients and health care providers, and better health care outcomes.
The lack of interoperability in medical records systems throughout the world prevents the realization of the benefits generated by increased spending in other parts of medical care.
Growing concerns regarding the security of online medical data, and regarding the regulations governing data ownership, require strict parameters in the development of efficient methods to administer medical records.
In addition, the increase in connected devices should be considered, which greatly increases the amount of data that can be collected to improve a patient’s long-term health outcomes. An increasing number of health care systems are developing Blockchain-based systems to manage medical data.
Blockchain has traditionally been used to manage cryptocurrency records, but for a not too distant time, distributed accounting technology can be applied to various aspects of medical care.
But how would this Technology Help in the Medical Field?
There are three fundamental pillars in which blockchain technology can help the efficient management of medical records:
Current health management systems, in addition to being at risk of integrity failures, are vulnerable to cyber attacks, as demonstrated by the 2017 WannaCry attack that affected computers in 80 of the 236 National Health System trusts from England (NHS), along with more than 250,000 computers in 150 countries.
Blockchain uses public-key cryptography to protect data through a “hash” unidirectional encryption function, which would allow the recipient to verify the validity of the information and where only he could see the content sent, eliminating any possibility of piracy.
While Blockchain is safer than the previous methods, most are still susceptible to a ‘51% attack‘. However, the use of an ‘authorized’ Blockchain (rather than without permission) may allow a health system to rule out any possibility of this attack style.
Therefore, this feature increases the integrity of the system, in addition to protecting against hackers, and strengthens the system beyond its strong public-key cryptography base.
Compliance with regulations
In compliance with the recently introduced regulations for data protection in some advanced countries at this point, the ability to create smart contracts on the blockchain makes it suitable for medical care since it could allow the entry of arbitrary logic components to process, validate and sanction access to insured data.
As an additional value, an important issue related to medical records is the cost associated with transferring records between locations and in particular, between Trusts.
The sending of data by email is considered a security risk, while there is an obvious inefficiency in the transcription of a digital asset in an optical medium, which is usually only read once at the receiving site.
In addition, repeated imaging studies carried out due to the lack of availability of previous results can be dangerous in the context of delayed and also financially expensive treatment.
As a decentralized database, Blockchain is fundamentally interoperable, and authorized data exchange has no additional cost.
The integration of the blockchain with medical records effectively would be in many ways in practice. Storing an index of health records and related metadata that are linked to confidential data stored elsewhere in a secure cloud would introduce an interoperability layer in the set of currently disjointed systems.
An example of this can be seen in Boston with MedRec, which not only allows access to the data with the consent of the multiple health care providers of a patient, but also allows access by epidemiological researchers.
In South Korea, Sendsquare, a foundation of FLETA, has developed a similarly successful system for clinical data management called eCRF, which was selected as an outstanding project among those supported by the National Agency for the Promotion of the IT Industry from the Government of South Korea, also known as NIPA.
The project is in progress with the cooperation of Hanyang University and St. Mary’s Hospital in Seoul.
Within this framework, the cloud-based medical record is associated with viewing permissions and data recovery instructions, so Blockchain is used to record interactions between patients and providers through smart contracts. Once a doctor creates a record, it is verified and the patient authorizes viewing permits and is stored on a smart contract.
The registry can never be modified without the agreement of most of the nodes and temporary access can be controlled by the use of temporary “tokens” keys, which are independent of the data and contain only assignment commands that are validated before they are sent the required reports.
Global Blockchain market in health care
It is estimated that the global Blockchain market in medical care will reach a significant growth rate in 2024, over the next five years. Blockchain technology in the field of medical care is still in its initial stage, however, it is expected to gain momentum in the near future due to increased funding and increased online fraud and data breaches.
In its purest form, Blockchain will offer health care a secure system to share data more efficiently. The increasing incidents of piracy, unauthorized access to health records, theft, unauthorized disclosure of information and data breaches in the health domain will create a significant demand for Blockchain technology in the near future.
The market has been geographically segmented according to the mode of implementation, application and end-user in three large areas according to the use of Blockchain technology: North America, Asia-Pacific (APAC) and the rest of the world (RoW).
The US health insurance giant plans to use blockchain technology to protect medical data
The main countries based on the income generated from these three areas are the United States, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, France, China, Japan, South Korea and India.
The valuation is estimated based on the total income of the market players, and the adoption of Blockchain technology is expected to grow significantly in the health sector.
Other factors that lead to the growth of the global blockchain market in medical care include the growing demand for decentralization of medical records and the integration of technological advances in the health sector.
The application of blockchain technology will also lead to a decrease in the growing threat of counterfeit medicines and an improvement in the commercialization rate of innovative medicines, which will positively influence the market growth.