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3 Ways How Blockchain is Transforming Healthcare Industry

Security issues, data breaches, and patient privacy are very common yet major concerns in the healthcare sector. Blockchain, a type of Distribution Ledger Technology (DLT) has the potential to combat most of the data storage and data sharing problems in the healthcare industry today. From protecting health data and upholding patient information to ensuring that the patient is placed at the center of the ecosystem, Blockchain is transforming the way the healthcare system works.

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What is Blockchain? 

First things first, let’s understand what Blockchain technology is. Blockchain is a shared database or ledger that enables data storage and sharing in a decentralized manner.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defined Blockchain as,

tamper evident and tamper resistant digital ledgers implemented in a distributed fashion (i.e., without a central repository) and usually without a central authority (i.e., a bank, company, or government). At their basic level, they enable a community of users to record transactions in a shared ledger within that community, such that under normal operation of the blockchain network no transaction can be changed once published.

How does Blockchain technology help? 

  • Data transparency
  • Extremely difficult to hack
  • Protects medical data
  • Easy data access
  • Easy exchange of data
  • Data sharing with only authorized personnel

EHRS and Data Exchange 

In 2016, the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) announced an open challenge inviting white paper several authors to submit their entries exploring Blockchain’s potential in addressing the security and privacy of data. Called the Blockchain Challenge, ONC offered cash prizes (in thousands) to decipher Electronic Health Record (HER)-related challenges. Out of 70 entries, 15 were selected.

When it comes to clinical decision-making, a lot rides on care coordination and the ease with which the data is connected to patients. One of the winners, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center categorically mentioned that EHRs were not an apt fit for lifetime medical record management.

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Instead, the authors suggested MedRec, a Blockchain-based system that not only enables patients to allow changes in their EHRs but also allows access to new providers and enables data sharing between providers.

How Blockchain secures healthcare records  

With the ever-increasing amounts of data and data breaches, one of the biggest challenges the healthcare industry faces today is data security. Protecting health data is the top priority for all healthcare providers. The biggest advantage of Blockchain is that it uses immutable ledgers to update information on all networks simultaneously. Unlike a central repository system, in Blockchain the data cannot be updated or tampered with.

Another way Blockchain is equipped to ease the data breach pain is through its data blocks which are continuously attached or connected to all the blocks in the network. This includes the blocks which come that are created before and after using the unique signature. When data within a certain block requires updating, a new block is automatically added rather than editing and updating the existing block. This brilliant technology ensures each data (which is added as well as updated) entry is transparent with a proper time stamp.

As Blockchain uses decentralized consensus, it is rather extremely difficult and time-consuming to alter one whole blockchain as this would require consensus from all the parties involved. In one odd case when a bad actor does try to exploit this agreement, they will not only have to gain control over most of the nodes in the network but also alter the data for the whole blockchain they are targeting.

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How do Fog Computing and Healthcare Internet Of Things work together?

One of the factors that majorly impact how patient-generated health data (PGHD) data is collected, analyzed, and utilized is the Healthcare Internet Of Things (IoT). Patient data is created by a variety of devices such as blood glucose monitors, Mhealth apps, and home scales.

While the data has enormous potential, with its sheer volume, PGHD data can often be unstandardized. To use PGHD optimally, the data must be clear, crisp, and instant. These features enable real-time analytics, which can be especially useful in preventing patient harm or death. Usually, several organizations depend on cloud computing devices for real-time analytics which enables the data to be uploaded to the cloud from the device. The relevant information is filtered and fed into an analytics engine and presented to clinicians. The shortcoming here is that the process can be time-consuming and hence, not an ideal choice during the time of an emergency. This is where fog computing devices come to the rescue. Fog computing enables IoT devices to conduct their analytics by adding just a layer between the device and the cloud perfect for large analytics.

With predefined user and authorized protocols, patient data can be shared via a distributed interface. This automatically results in faster data transmission without having to share a whole new record every time an organization makes a change. With Blockchain technology, users are enabled to view as well as modify information and are also equipped to view it in real-time.

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