Blockchain in Healthcare: What’s so Special about this Tech?

As technology advances, organizations face a continuous challenge to innovate and operate. The speed of growth in healthcare is increasing rapidly and needs to be backed up by the latest technologies. This is because the healthcare system is moving towards a more patient-centric approach. 

Blockchain technology has the potential to change the healthcare industry. It can revolutionize healthcare by providing patients better security, privacy and accessibility. Patients can ensure that their information will be better protected and accessible. But how does Blockchain enables this? And how is the healthcare industry utilizing this technology?

What is Blockchain?

A Blockchain is a distributed database that stores data records. It supports a digital ledger of connected “blocks” of information representing how data is shared, changed or accessed on its peer-to-peer network. 

A block is generated when a device connected to a Blockchain system is used to perform any kind of transaction. This block contains a record of the transaction. Every other device on the Blockchain will also generate this block. Meaning that there is a shared, up-to-date record of the transaction on every device on the Blockchain. This decentralized approach to data storage makes it easy to track changes and ensure that data remains accurate across all devices. 

blockchain in healthcare

How Blockchain Helps the Healthcare Industry?

Blockchain technology can revolutionize healthcare as we know it. Its potential benefits include increased security, privacy, and the integration of health data. By capitalizing on this technology, we can connect fragmented systems to generate insights and assess the value of care more effectively. In the long term, a blockchain network for electronic medical records may improve efficiencies and support better health outcomes for patients. 

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The Blockchain enabled healthcare solutions can be divided into five modules: 

  1. Data generation 
  2. Data enrichment 
  3. Storing health records on the Blockchain 
  4. Data consumption with smart contracts 
  5. Data mining and AI in Blockchain

1. Data Generation

Before we can even think about integrating Blockchain into healthcare, we need to fully understand the scope of data and how it’s being generated. 

Medical treatment produces sensitive and critical patient data at every stage. It includes consultation, diagnosis, or surgery and it’s important to know where this data is coming from so that we can properly store and manage it. 

The healthcare data includes: 

  1. Prescriptions 
  2. Reports 
  3. X-rays 
  4. Radiography, etc. 
Patient health data
Patient Health Data

However, these data comes in different formats, such as text, paper, videos, pictures, digital or multimedia files. 

Even though healthcare providers are increasingly adopting digital technologies, patients’ medical records are still stored on centralized servers. This creates a potential attack surface for hackers. 

Electronic healthcare records (EHRs) hold sensitive information like; name, address, place of work, prescribed medicines, payment modes, etc. 

2. Data Enrichment

It is the process of adding value to data to improve its quality. For example, patient health records need to be accurate, secure and understandable to be useful. Unstructured data, on the other hand, can lead to inconsistencies and delays in the treatment process. 

However, it is important to follow the three steps to secure data before storing it in the Blockchain

Steps to secure data before storing in Blockchain

🔹 Make data ready for compliance

Saving data on a Blockchain doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be out of compliance. In fact, Blockchain can actually make compliance enforcement more seamless and transparent. The HIPAA compliance regulations exist to protect patient data. Any healthcare vendors dealing with patients’ protected health information must follow HIPAA’s security measures

🔹 Include meta information and structure it for computation

Medical data should be stored in a structured way so that it can be accessed efficiently by all healthcare providers. Storing health data on the Blockchain has numerous benefits. It ensures that the data is tamper-proof and secure. It makes the data more accessible to authorized parties. 

🔹 Restore the patient’s identity using Public Hash key

A person’s identity can be restored by a hash, which is a unique numerical value. This hash would make it impossible for an attacker to decode the user’s identity and protected health information. De-identify data will remove all details about the patient, including their name, address, social security number, and financial information.

3. Storing Health Records on the Blockchain

Blockchain technology in healthcare can help to eliminate the risks associated with data centralized by storing digital health records across multiple nodes in the network. 

To elaborate on how a Blockchain healthcare solution would manage medical records, we have divided this module into four steps; 

  1. Health practitioners store information on the Blockchain 
  2. Transactions are completed and identified with unique identifiers. 
  3. Healthcare institutions can directly query the Blockchain 
  4. The patients can share their public keys with health practitioners. 

A Blockchain can either be a public or private Blockchain. Since a user’s identity will not be visible, a public Blockchain can be used in this case. 

Once the data is stored, it can be accessed by various Blockchain healthcare providers using smart contracts. This way, the data is secure, and only those authorized to view it can do so. 

4. Data Consumption using Smart Contracts

Smart contracts are being used more frequently to help with data sharing and enforcement of business rules, compliance requirements and the user’s will. 

The stakeholders involved in the patient’s treatment can consume the stored data with the patient’s consent, which keeps everyone on the same page while protecting sensitive information. 

How could different healthcare providers use smart contracts to consume data?🤔

When data is saved on the Blockchain, smart contracts are triggered. This allows the healthcare providers to receive the patient’s report without revealing their identity. The healthcare provider requests access to their health records. 

The patients will have ownership of the data. They will decide what information to share with which entity using smart contracts. 

Smart contracts will ensure a transparent, conflict-free exchange of information. No one can access the patient’s health records if the user refuses to exchange the data. 

Data Consumption Using Smart Contracts

5. Utilizing Data Mining and AI in Healthcare Blockchain

Nowadays, healthcare data is generated using various technologies such as AI, IoT and ML. This data can be used for multiple purposes, such as disease prevention, disease cure, drug development and clinical trials. 

The Blockchain healthcare platform could use de-identification to protect patients’ identities. This would allow medical research companies to use non-identifiable records for their research activities. 

Data mining and AI can help research companies to glean relevant data from large data sets stored on a Blockchain. 

So now that you know how a Blockchain healthcare solution works, here are some of the benefits of using Blockchain technology in healthcare;

Benefits of Blockchain Technology in Healthcare

Before investing in Blockchain, be sure to weigh the rewards of introducing the technology into a healthcare system. Let’s explore the potential benefits; 

✔️ Simplifies Approach to Data

Unlike how information is typically managed, healthcare records can be shared across multiple computer systems using healthcare Blockchain technology. 

This could potentially remove the need for storing data in various databases, making it much simpler to access the information. 

✔️ System Interoperability

In healthcare, securely exchanging information is critical to providing quality patient care. Blockchain technology is potential of solving many of the data interoperability issues by decentralizing data and giving network access to a transparent and immutable ledger. This would allow for better coordination of care and improve patient outcomes. 

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✔️ Efficiency

Blockchain technology has the potential to make healthcare systems much more efficient by allowing for real-time processing. This could remove the need for third-party companies and, as a result, eliminate delays in accessing data. 

✔️ Control Over Data

The patient’s public key would be required to access their health records. This would allow patients to control who should have access to the data seamlessly. Since the data is encrypted, it would remain unreadable to hackers even if they could access it. 

Want to Leverage Blockchain for your Healthcare Business?

Related Read: Benefits of Data Visualization in Healthcare

Use Cases of Blockchain in Healthcare

Many healthcare institutions are working on building Blockchain-enabled systems and applications to enhance healthcare services for both patients and healthcare professionals. 

Blockchain is transforming the healthcare sector by decentralizing patient medical history, improving payment systems and tracking pharmaceutical data. 

Unlock Decentralized Applications with the dHealth Signer App

  • The dHealth Blockchain network provides a free default tool to interact with the network and unlock applications for network participants. This tool is important for anyone who wants to take advantage of the dHealth ecosystem. 
  • Identities and access rights to data can be managed. 
  • Account balance and transactions are displayed. Transactions, as well as payments and invoices, can be initiated. 

🔹 Health to Earn

Health-to-earn is a concept where an individual can earn from providing his health data or performing ‘health tasks’ such as going for a walk or a jog. The application rewards directly to the user’s dHealth wallet for activities completed. 

🔹 Centiva App

Many healthcare providers have noticed the problem of getting feedback from patients with rare diseases on how well the care or medication works for them.

dHealth works with a hospital or healthcare provider and has them enroll their patients in the application. The patients are asked to install the Centiva App. The patients must provide basic information such as age, address, etc. This information stays within the app and is is not sent to any server. 

Then a researcher would broadcast a request to these users to share the patient’s data. Each request is accompanied by the identity of the lab or pharmaceutical company. It displays what they are requesting and willing to compensate the individual for taking the time to answer the questions or share the data. 

For example, a healthcare practitioner is trying to develop a new diabetes treatment. He/ She would create a request for all the patients living in Canada, grouping the age group between 50 to 70 with type 2 diabetes. The request will then be broadcasted on the Blockchain. Therefore, the user’s app will then get notified about the transaction. 

The app will monitor the Blockchain and match the criteria with a relevant user profile that’s stored locally. If there’s a match, the patient will get a notification. After the patients give his/her consent, they are directed to the place where they can share the data. Finally, the researcher receives the data and sends the reward token to the patient. 

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Conclusion

We hope this blog has provided you with a better understanding of how Blockchain technology can be used in healthcare to create irresistible solutions. With Ai-enabled automated health checks, patients can save money and time, while their immutable health records will be securely stored on the Blockchain. 

We have a detailed session by Vega Paithankar explaining the application of Blockchain in healthcare and some of their great examples.

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