At present, the biggest issue that makes the use of blockchain revolutionary in the healthcare sector is the lack of a central administration. The private data being stored is vulnerable consisting of bits and bytes. As the industry evolves alongside emerging technologies, effective patient care has become supreme importance for everyone in the network right from pharma companies, to vendors all the way to the doctors.
DATA VULNERABILITY IN EXISTING EHR SYSTEM
Medical Data not only contains insurance details which can be misused for fraudulent billing and falsified prescriptions but also complete health histories, social security numbers, medications, credit card details and more. Such type of data holds huge incentives for hackers upon selling in black markets.
Adding to it, Breaches, Malware and Ransomware are making frontpage news for targeting and attacking health industry. Still, the industry is resistant to adopting emerging technologies and implementing security protocol as compared to finance, banking and retail industries.
- In 2017, the former CEO of Cerner Neal Patterson passed away. His wife had to bring printed copies of her medical records to every specialist she saw because this information couldn’t be shared electronically. Neal had spent his career building an electronic medical record company to solve these very problems. Cerner is now valued at more than $20 billion
- In HIMSS 2018, Medicare chief Seema Verma, who shared that her husband couldn’t access his own records after a cardiac arrest, everyone will be patients or at least caregivers. That means even the wealthiest and most powerful among people’s will need to grapple with healthcare system
In 2009, the Affordable Care Act required electronic health records to be incorporated into medical practices. However, even in today’s healthcare system, where 86.9% of office-based physicians have an EHR system in place, access to health care data is still a significant problems.
We have established safeguards and regulations like HIPPA to “protect individuals medical records and other personal health information and applied to health plans and those health care providers that conduct certain health care transactions electronically”. The survey shares the statistics about millions of data breaches in 2018.
- Many people are still not aware of insecure networks which are prone to the risk of fraudulent usage of data and get into contact with such networks unknowingly
- In some cases, employees intentionally steal data with petty reasons like having grudges against the employer
- The year 2017 witnessed several Cyber attacks examples include WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware attacks, Equifax data breach, MongoDB database leak, Elasticsearch server hack, Cloudbleed security bug, Zomato hack, HBO hack / Game of thrones leaks, Uber data breach, and Ethereum hack
EHRs and other sensitive health data are sold in the dark market and the immutable personal information that can be utilized for many forms of fraud. Such data breached in healthcare industry field costs $6.2 billion annually (Health IT & CIO Report) in a form of forensics, lost revenue, data theft etc.
Healthcare information is extremely valuable on the black market because it contains sufficient detail to hack health savings accounts, or commit identity theft. There is no provision for data safety, hence adopting a more secure yet cost-effective way to protect his data would be a very welcoming development.
Blockchain, the term which is getting massive popularity in security services, healthcare organizations now started exploring it. The blockchain is a shared, immutable record of peer-to-peer transactions built from linked transactions blocks stored in a digital ledger. It’s decentralized and unique approach where the data is stored in a distributed network without any centralized authority. This trait can be effectively utilized to prevent attacks.
Most of the buzz around Blockchain in Healthcare is focused on EHRs, interoperability, and security. Consumers are demanding control over their medical information and remain updated with their own patient-reported data and status. The blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions that anyone on the network can see and no one on the network can alter the information. The main areas of the interest in healthcare blockchain industries are EHRs/EMRs, Pharmaceutical companies, Hospitals/clinics/doctors/care services etc.
Around 67% of healthcare organization have inefficient EHR systems that do not communicate efficiently and thus, the traditional method of sharing or transferring health records through fax machines and emails is still being followed. Blockchain supports healthcare data security processes by centralizing the data across the care perpetuity.
Health information stored on a Blockchain cannot be modified once it has been recorded. Each member in a Blockchain value chain has a secret private key and a public key. In order to uncover the patient’s information, one must need a private key in the blockchain network. The decentralized approach of the blockchain means that there is no single point of failure that can result in data loss or risk data security.
HOW CAN BLOCKCHAIN ADD VALUE TO EHR/SUPPLY CHAIN?
- The blockchain is a technology which helps to keep data secure in a distributed ledger and provide control only to those who have access to that ledger.
- Here, the patients have full control of their records and information.
- Blockchain allows patients to access and control their entire medical history. Patients can approve members in their private secure EHR community. Also, they can approve changes and can track the data shared by different parties.
- With Blockchain, providers can create a smart contract- a rule-based contract for accessing patient data which can be permissioned to selected health organizations.
- In a pharma supply chain, drugs can be scanned and entered into secure digital blocks
- In a Blockchain enabled the system, real-time records could be viewed anytime by authorized parties and even all the authorized members in the supply chain
HIE and interoperability are other strong aspects playing a crucial role in the healthcare industry. Rather than relying on intermediaries for exchanging of data such as public/private networks, members can join the network without building specific interfaced between them.
The blockchain is becoming the backbone of digital health. It not only provides transparency between the members but also security while transferring the data and access to the patient’s records/history.
When considering the bigger picture, the potential of blockchain technology depends on how willing healthcare organizations are to embrace the much-needed technical infrastructure. However, one thing is for sure- blockchain has taken healthcare industry by storm over the past few years, and we have witnessed significant investments in its adoption. Patient centricity in conjunction with blockchain technology will open new doors for innovation and inject the much-needed trust whilst improving the quality of care in all aspects.