Blockchain in Healthcare: Exploring Data Security & Patient Records

Written by Becky Ali, Blockchain Analyst at AlliedBlock.com


The healthcare industry is creating a vast amount of fragmented health data which is projected to grow to a trillion gigabytes by 2025. What’s alarming is the fact that only 1% of such health data gets utilized. With the passage of legislation like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), stronger regulatory environments are being built to properly protect data. It is becoming incredibly important to intelligently and responsibly handle patient data.


In terms of health records management, individual hospitals tend to maintain their own patient data which creates obstacles for patients when they need to retrieve the data as it exists only in one singular portal which may have its own set of data security criteria. What adds to this fragmented ecosystem is the lack of coordination among the traditional Electronic Health Records ( EHRs) system(s).


What is needed is a communication architecture for all patient EHRs across hospitals through which patients can easily access their data and data privacy is fully ensured.

Blockchain can play that role and enable the creation of a unified communication platform. The system would record medical interactions between the patient and the primary care physician. Each interaction would involve anonymized addresses for the patient and the primary care physician, allowing the patient to obtain his/her records through that distinct address. Owing to the large size of the actual medical data, the records themselves would be stored in an assigned digital storage location instead of directly on the blockchain. The data location could only be decrypted by the patient’s private key ensuring full data ownership and security. Additionally, the record would generate a cryptographic hash value of the data at each transaction on the system which would assure that the patient can track any and all record changes and who changed it, all without requiring the need to access the actual digital records.


Additionally, the hospital can create the patient record and the patient could authorize the sharing of their records among multiple hospitals. This builds secure accessibility into the system helping improve speed and quality of care. The patient is fully involved in all changes to their medical records, giving them much needed access and ownership of their own medical data.


As an example from the retail industry, Walmart patented a blockchain solution that is used to obtain medical records from a wearable device. The product stores patient’s emergency medical records securely on the blockchain providing access only in emergency situations where the patient is unable to respond. Specifically, the wearable is equipped with both a biometric and Radio-Frequency scanner. The device acts as an access point to the blockchain records and is accessed when the biometric and RFID scanners are activated. In the event of an emergency, first responders obtain an encrypted private key and a public key for the patient. The first responders scan the biometric feature of the patient to decrypt the private key and gain access the emergency medical records directly from the blockchain database.


Blockchain solutions in healthcare assure data ownership, security and privacy of patient’s data. It provides healthcare facilities with a means of securely sharing data across various primary care providers. The technology is nascent but powerful. There are interesting use cases being developed, but there are currently still questions around how the tech will impact current business structures and how it will fulfill business objectives. The evolving landscape definitely deserves attention as core business needs around complex and fragmented data, patient data security, and patient data shareability all have the potential to fall under the blockchain umbrella. The technology should be explored for experimentation and proof of concept testing to get a real sense of how it can help solve these current problem structures.


AlliedBlock is a global blockchain research and development firm that is focused on delivering tailored blockchain development solutions. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you tailor a blockchain solution for your business (www.alliedblock.com).


Sources:

D. Reinsel, J. Gantz, J. Rydning (2017). Data age 2025: The evolution of data to life critical, IDC.


The Social Benefits of Blockchain for Health Data: Securing Patient Privacy and Control. (2017, December 19). Retrieved from https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/the-social-benefits-blockchain-for-health-data-securing-patient-privacy-and-control


Walmart Patents Blockchain System For Accessing Medical Record .(2018). Retrieved from https://www.ccn.com/walmart-patents-system-for-accessing-medical-records-stored-on-a-blockchain/


Blockchain: Opportunities For Health Care | Deloitte Us RJ Krawiec-Rj -Mark White-Mark — Deloitte Consulting LLP- Federal Innovation and Translational Medicine in Deloitte- Principal | Technology Services.Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/public-sector/articles/blockchain-opportunities-for-health-care.html

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