Securing health records with Blockchain

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The global market for IoT healthcare tech will top $400 billion in 2022.
The global market for IoT healthcare tech will top $400 billion in 2022.

By Ritesh Gandotra,
Director, Global Document Outsourcing, Xerox India.

A long-standing focus on compliance has, in essence, limited the development of even the baseline changes in the current Electronic Health Records (EHRs). Today, we face the dire need to innovate solutions that function effortlessly as data science prompt patients to engage in the details of their healthcare and restore agency over their medical data.

In the current scenario, personalized medicine is on the rise – with people tracking and gaining more information about their health than ever before. However issues arise when all this data need to be stored securely and transferred across healthcare practitioners to foster collaboration. While blockchain can help with these, is still at a very early stage requiring education around use-cases that can benefit from it, unlike in finance where it is becoming a worldwide phenomenon.

Historically, EHRs were never designed to manage multi-institutional, life time medical records. Patients leave data scattered across various organizations as life events take them away from one provider’s data silo and into another. This lack of a well-coordinated data management system results in the fragmentation of health records.

The global market for IoT healthcare tech will top $400 billion in 2022. Blockchain-enabled solutions have the potential to bridge the gaps of device data interoperability while ensuring security, privacy and reliability around use cases. Source

Blockchain can enable for the first time the long sought longitudinal health record that contains every episode of care from childhood to old age in every location healthcare was delivered. This capability would radically reduce medical errors and improve care quality as well as empower individuals to have full control over their own health records.

According to a 2017 Xerox eHealth Survey, 69 percent of healthcare providers and payers are uncomfortable with the risks of value-based care, and 77 percent agree that some providers are losing money by adopting the approach. Addressing this concern, blockchain technology supports the use of “smart contracts,” which can allow users to automate and track certain state transitions (such as a change in viewership rights, or the birth of a new record in the system). Source

Via smart contracts offered on various blockchain technologies, healthcare providers can log patient-provider relationships that associate a medical record with viewing permissions and data retrieval instructions (essentially data pointers) for execution on external databases. Blockchain can act as a cryptographic hash of the record to ensure against tampering, thus guaranteeing data integrity. Source

Providers can add a new record associated with a particular patient, and patients can authorize sharing of records between providers. In both cases, the party receiving new information receives an automated notification and can verify the proposed record before accepting or rejecting the data. This keeps participants informed and engaged in the evolution of their records.

Opportunities in healthcare

* Increased transparency would eliminate the need for a Health Information Exchange (HIE) operator as all participants would have access to the distributed ledger to maintain a secure exchange without complex brokered trust

* Reduced Transaction Costs due to near-real time processing, would make the system more efficient

* Distributed framework for patient digital identities, which uses private and public identifiers secured through cryptography, creates a singular, more secure method of protecting patient identity

* Shared data enables near real-time updates across the network to all parties

* Distributed, secure access to patient longitudinal health data across the distributed ledger

* Smart Contracts create a consistent, rule-based method for accessing patient data that can be permitted to selected health organizations.

In essence, deploying a blockchain structure to EHRs makes lot of sense. In other words, adopting blockchain structure to EHRs will help manage authentication, confidentiality, accountability and data sharing while allowing medical researchers to access insights into medical treatment – potentially revolutionizing how data is gathered and accessed for research purposes.

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