The vulnerabilities of traditional database systems resulted in a decade of unending data breaches and the consequent financial losses. Fortunately, blockchain has emerged as a successful technology in ensuring data security. With an impressive CAGR of 64%, blockchain technology in healthcare is to set to reach $5.6 billion of market value by 2025.
What is blockchain technology?
Initially emerged as an alternative for traditional online payment methods, blockchain brings excessive transparency and security in data storage. This technology provides a way to store data in a dynamic collection of blocks. Each new block connects to the previous one making an unending chain.
Each stakeholder with access to the chain can view the information stored in blocks. However, information is immutable. In essence, the data in blocks is represented by hashes which disallow modifications. Thus, unlike traditional databases in hospitals, banks, and other institutions, there is no centralized authority in the blockchain.
Although blockchain can also be public, as in the case of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, yet healthcare requires private blockchain. In this approach, the blocks are accessible to only a limited number of people and groups associated with the department. Every node in the chain takes part in decision making. Thus, a modification in any block will require approval from all nodes.
Another factor making blockchain crucial for healthcare is its high degree of fault tolerance. Since this information storage scheme follows distributed rather than a centralized approach, the information will be accessible even if multiple nodes are down or unavailable.
Some businesses are also trying to utilize blockchain as an analytics platform and to address large storage issues. However, the technology proved its mettle the most in ensuring data security since its advent in 2009.
Use of Blockchain Technology in Healthcare
Blockchain is a horizontal innovation technology which implies that it is applicable in many disparate industries. Logistics and delivery industry and banking sector are a couple of examples. However, healthcare is one of the top beneficiaries of this technology.
Prevention of Drug Counterfeiting
Counterfeiting is at the core of issues regarding healthcare in general and pharmaceutical industry in particular. This illegal market is generating revenue of over $200 billion a year. Fake drugs are not only causing a massive financial loss to registered drug manufacturers.
It is also wreaking havoc with the public’s health. WHO confirms that 15-20% of fake drugs lack either correct constituents or appropriate percentage of ingredients.
The application of blockchain is significant in drug traceability because it eliminates every possibility of data tampering. The technology allows drug manufacturers to generate an immutable hash.
This unique hash ID enables retailers, and hence patients, to distinguish the original product from counterfeited ones. Thus, a blockchain dedicated to drug manufacturers can serve as a certificate of legitimation for pharmaceutical companies.
Patient Data: Management and Processing
The arrival of electronic patient record (EPR) two decades back apparently brought great relief to healthcare departments. However, hackers soon started to exploit the vulnerabilities in these centralized systems.
The ransomware attacks of May 2017 fueled the need for blockchain technology in the healthcare industry. This intrusion managed to encrypt and modify millions of records in over 150 countries.
Consequently, the national health services (NHS) of the UK alone suffered approximately £92 million. With such humongous losses, the governments are ensuring to make quick and flexible blockchain regulations.
Blockchain technology in healthcare enables practitioners to store data in blocks and associated a hash ID with it. This ID allows easy retrieval of data and makes the block tamperproof.
One of the most attractive features of block technology in healthcare is the transparency of records. Patients decide about who should view personal information. Moreover, the authorized individuals cannot share the data with anyone sans permission from the patient.
Permissions for Clinical Trials
Research and practical implementations are part and parcel of healthcare. All of the medical breakthroughs would have been impossible if experiments of drugs on humans were disallowed. The return on investment of manufacturing companies depends on the outcome of experimentation. Thus, many companies tilt the outcome in their favor by manipulating with records.
Blockchain prevents such manipulations. It uses smart contracts to sanction the permission for acquiring patient’s record or using a patient for experimentation. Since blockchain is a network of participating computers, one cannot change any dataset without the consent of majority of nodes in the network. This network also includes patient and healthcare regulators.
Studies indicate that the percentage of unreported clinical trials in Europe was as high as 90%. Blockchain limits the access to retrieval and modification of data. Only the authorized personnel can access while others can request for gaining permission.
Patients demonstrate trust deficit while dealing with the traditional healthcare system. They often complain of getting surcharged and lengthy procedure to meet prerequisites.
Blockchain addresses this challenge by providing the ability to generate smart contracts. This term often misleads because such a contract is not a digital document. Instead, it defines a code which suggests the terms of interaction and data use between various stakeholders.
The enforcement of smart contracts depends on the consensus of majority of stakeholders. Therefore, a contract comes into practice as soon as more than 50% of authorized users of blockchain agree and terms.
Blockchain healthcare startups including Zenome and HIT Foundation provide smart contracts to legitimize the process of research using patient’s history.
Blockchain for Your Business
Benefits of blockchain technology in healthcare are evident from both business value and facilitation of patients. The factors of transparency and excessive data security make it inevitable for health industry.
This is why governments are actively participating in developing a regulatory framework. The regulations for blockchain are far less rigid so that more entrepreneurs can be encouraged to invest in this sector.
Mob Inspire is assisting companies for over a decade in streamlining their businesses. We carry the privilege of successfully growing multiple startups and pulling struggling enterprises out of crises. Contact us today so that we can discuss the opportunities of growing together.