Healthcare accounts for a significant portion of the gross domestic product (GDP) in developed countries. Hospital prices, on the other hand, continue to rise, as do ineffective procedures and health data breaches. This is one place where blockchain for healthcare app development has the potential to change things. It is capable of a wide range of tasks, including safe encryption of patient data and the management of epidemics.
Estonia is a pioneer in this area, having implemented blockchain technology in healthcare in 2012. Currently, blockchain is used to manage all healthcare billing, 95 percent of health records, and 99 percent of medication details.
The term “blockchain” refers to a shared immutable record of a chain of transactions, each of which is made up of one block, and which is kept together by cryptographic keys (“hashes”).
These keys or signatures are stored in shared ledgers and linked by a network of nodes or processes. Each node maintains a copy of the entire chain, which is continually synchronized and updated.
Decentralized management, unchangeable databases, data provenance, traceable data, robust data, and availability of data to any approved user, while keeping it out of the hands of unauthorized users by encryption that is based on a patient’s private key are all advantages of using blockchains over conventional methods of healthcare database management systems.
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the benefits of blockchain technology include its tamper-resistant existence, the decentralized nature of digital ledgers, and the impossibility of modifying a reported transaction later inside the user group that shares the ledger. Digital ledger technology is another name for this technology (DLT).
Although DLT can be used in a variety of healthcare settings, not all operation in healthcare is related to transactions. However, since the data in public blockchains are publicly available, they cannot be used to store private information such as identifying health data. As a result of this openness, providers are required to consider privacy issues to ensure that protected patient information is maintained (PHI).
Second, although blockchain technology is vulnerable to some attacks, it also provides built-in security against others. The blockchain’s code makes it vulnerable to zero-day attacks, bugs, and social engineering. As a result, information protection should be special consideration, particularly in healthcare.
Since blockchain data is permanent, it should not be used indiscriminately in healthcare. Large files, or those that change frequently, may be excluded. All personally identifiable information should remain off the chain.
Patient privacy is now a norm when considering processing any type of PHI. According to DLT experts, new legislation implementation, like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the ones that have been around for more than a decade like HIPAA, patient privacy becomes a standard during PHI storage and exchange.
Also, Read | The Significance Of Blockchain In GDPR Compliance
The following are some of the major issues with blockchain implementations in healthcare.
Individual patients may use the same details on the blockchain to securely access and exchange their health data with other providers or organizations using a shareable private key. This could aid in the interoperability and collaboration of health information technology (HIT) with various blockchain applications.
Blockchain has the potential to build a single mechanism for storing and retrieving health records in a safe and timely manner by approved users. Innumerable errors can become avoidable. Quicker diagnoses and treatments are possible. And treatment can be a smooth experience; by preventing miscommunication between different healthcare professionals interested in caring for the same patient.
Through storing a specific collection of structured data on the chain, together with private encrypted links to separately stored information such as radiographic or other photographs, the blockchain may provide a single transaction layer where organizations can send and exchange data via one safe framework. The use of smart contracts and standardized authorization protocols will greatly aid in the provision of seamless connectivity.
Between 2009 and 2017, there were over 176 million data breaches involving healthcare records. The blockchain’s secure features will significantly improve the security of health data. Each person gets a public identifier or a private key. Furthermore, the need to target each user individually to access private information will restrict hacking. As a result, blockchain technology will have an immutable audit trail of medical data.
With the advancement of technology, blockchain-based mobile health applications are becoming increasingly relevant. Electronic medical records (EMRs) can remain safe in a blockchain network while medical staff across hospitals can share data quickly for self-monitoring and home care.
This area is especially vulnerable to malware, particularly root exploits that allow a hacker to access the patient’s private key.
With complete transparency, blockchain will help protect and trace the trail of pharmaceutical supplies. It can also monitor the labor costs and carbon emissions associated with the production of these products.
Because of its ability to present medical incidents as they happened without the possibility of manipulating the data later for fraud purposes, blockchain-based insurance solutions are ideal for simplifying insurance claim processes.
The specific capabilities of blockchain can aid real-time disease reporting and disease pattern exploration, which can aid in determining the disease’s origin and transmission parameters.
In healthcare, blockchain technologies are in their infancy. Also, Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric are only two examples of the use of blockchain technology systems in healthcare, that too on a small scale. However, considering the recent blockchain advancements across various healthcare processes, the future seems ripe for new opportunities and developments.
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