Blockchain can provide a solution that helps to securely share medical records. It also assures the privacy of each by giving the patients their medical data ownership. Besides the advantages of blockchain for healthcare, there are also some challenges we want to point out.1
Blockchain Healthcare Use Cases: People
Blockchain will change the healthcare industry for people. It can enable a unified and secure exchange of electronic health records.2,3Patients can own their medical records instead of storing their data somewhere else. Since the data is unified, any updates are done worldwide. So new data is available when it is needed.2
Patients can also choose, with who they want to share their data. Thus, control can be oriented more towards the consumer.2,3 So blockchain provides the ability to access health records when needed.4
But with new technology, there are also some challenges for people. Once the provider has your data, they could process it steady without your agreement.11 Also, people are not much aware of this new technology. So a lot of people could be confused. They don’t know where the data is stored and who can have access to this data.2
Blockchain Healthcare Use Cases: Processes
Blockchain will change the healthcare industry and the processes. So security is a critical issue for healthcare processes. The blockchain technology can provide high tamper resistance. So health data can be promised to be kept with high-level security.3
Also, you can store your health data from different sources on the Blockchain. So you don’t rely on one central party.5,6 Blockchain has the potential for the automated validation of claims, qualified verification, and pre-authorization. So that may increase the transparency, efficiency, and security of the process.7 As a result of the transparency, a new level of trust could be attained among patients and medical staff.8 It also can increase the level of security by a lot.
Research is another example that blockchain can help with. Its decentralized approach to managing permissions, authorization and immutable audit trail. It also can provide rapid and secure access to important research data.7,10 Blockchain may enhance the development of drugs and medical devices. It could also reduce the production of false medicine and clinical trials. It does this by decreasing the amount currently spent on confirmation by the third party.5
Blockchain technology can also help developing new hardware and software to improve healthcare processes. It can tackle the problem of proper use and integration of new devices into the current network. This is important for sensitive health data.9 Blockchain also offers to make healthcare processes easier and more robust. So data is stored in a single format and connections among various parties. Thus, it doesn’t matter at which place the health record was processed. As a result, maintaining and sharing data gets easy.11
Also, we can reduce human error and processing times. The reason for that is because the system could minimize human involvement with data. And because every data is copied and stored on each node it makes them available to access to the users at all times.10
The origin of the assets is traceable. Thus the verified data is more robust. This is essential for some healthcare processes such as insurance transactions.10
Blockchain Healthcare Industry: Challenges for Processes
Blockchain will change the healthcare industry and with it the processes, but it also has some disadvantages. There is still a huge uncertainty about this technology.5 This causes issues about the legality of this technology.2 In order to implement the changes to the current system, it must be legally approved first.
There are also several potential barriers to ethics. Also the approval with regulatory and the technical barriers related to data storage and distribution can be a problem.2,4 How to use shared data is one of these challenges. For example, how a patient can choose which data to share and to whom. Patient, as the owner of the data, must authorize a health care provider to access the data. If for any reason the patient is not able to do that, it is unclear who can give him permission.2
We also have to train the staff and the patients. They need to learn how to design and manage the distributed Apps. So you can ensure vertical and horizontal scalability.10
Also, the transition may take a long time. During the transition, there may be some issues in the processes. For example, currently, for patients capability of self-reporting the symptoms of their sickness is app-specific. That means patients can only access this feature if their provider’s medical system implements it.11
Blockchain Healthcare Use Cases: Technologies
Blockchain will change the healthcare industry and with it the technology. The blockchain network is flexible, adaptable, agile, and secure with high performance and low latency.10 With the help of them, we can avoid time-consuming and resource intensive authentication and information processes. As a result, this makes healthcare procedures much quicker.7,8 Also software is designed to ensure the transparency of medicine manufacturing process to track medical distribution, and ensure the authenticity of prescriptions.7
With all the advantages that blockchain can offer there are also some disadvantages. The cost and complexity can cause huge problems. Because of the high cost of data centers, everyone might migrate to third-party providers. As a result healthcare providers may have to pay to access the data.7 The technical complexity of blockchain can be difficult to understand for everyone. Many patients might be confused to manage their medical records owing to the complexity of blockchain setup.5 Another technical disadvantage is that it is not ideal for data with high temporal resolution and multi-dimensional data.8 And since it is an open network that anyone can join, it needs massive computing power for effective tamper resistance.3,10
We have to test the effectiveness and efficiency of handling large volumes of data. Once the traffic increases, the transaction time can get long depending on the protocol. This can have a huge impact of the scalability.4 A global standard is also needed to store, access and share data in the cloud.6 In addition, if 51% of the network is taken over by attackers, the system break down.10,2
Blockchain has the power to increase decentralized management, robustness, security and immutable audit trail. Early applications of blockchain in healthcare has shown that it is not only changing technology. It is also a way of doing business and redefining the relations. But there are also concerns about this technology. Transparency, confidence, speed, and scalability are mostly technical issues. We also have to fix legal and regulatory issues. If we want to go too fast, nothing could work. So we should try to implement blockchain in the healthcare industry step by step and try to tackle certain challenges slowly.
- Peterson, K., et al., A Blockchain-Based Approach to Health Information Exchange Networks. 2016.
- Roehrs, A., C.A. da Costa, and R. da Rosa Righi, OmniPHR: A Distributed Architecture Model to Integrate Personal Health Records. Journal of Biomedical Informatics, 2017.
- Ichikawa, D., M. Kashiyama, and T. Ueno, Tamper-Resistant Mobile Health Using Blockchain Technology. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 2017. 5(7).
- Yue, X., et al., Healthcare data gateways: found healthcare intelligence on blockchain with novel privacy risk control. Journal of medical systems, 2016. 40(10): p. 218
- Skiba, D.J., The Potential of Blockchain in Education and Health Care. Nursing Education Perspectives, 2017. 38(4): p. 220-221.
- Karafiloski, E. and A. Mishev. Blockchain solutions for big data challenges: A literature review. in Smart Technologies, IEEE EUROCON 2017-17th International Conference on. 2017. IEEE.
- Angraal, S., H.M. Krumholz, and W.L. Schulz, Blockchain technology: applications in health care. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, 2017. 10(9): p. e003800.
- Mettler, M. Blockchain technology in healthcare: The revolution starts here. in e-Health Networking, Applications and Services (Healthcom), 2016 IEEE 18th International Conference on. 2016. IEEE.
- Ahram, T., et al. Blockchain technology innovations. in Technology & Engineering Management Conference (TEMSCON), 2017 IEEE. 2017. IEEE.
- Kuo, T.-T., H.-E. Kim, and L. Ohno-Machado, Blockchain distributed ledger technologies for biomedical and health care applications. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 2017. 24(6): p. 12111220.
- Zhang, P., et al. Metrics for Assessing Blockchain-based Healthcare Decentralized Apps. in 2017 IEEE 19th International Conference on e-Health Networking, Applications and Services (Healthcom).