Blockchain technology moves towards achieving data privacy in healthcare
Advances in technology have enabled many industries around the world to become faster, more accurate and more efficient, including healthcare organizations. In fact, since health organizations have adopted digital solutions for maintaining patient records and research, their efficiency has grown exponentially. With further technological advances over time, health data management should become even more practical, easy and useful.
That said, there are some disadvantages when it comes to computerizing sensitive information. There are numerous examples where this can be problematic, such as the introduction of new charges for doctors, the risks of online attacks, security breaches, information theft and the like. Especially in recent years, hacker attacks on hospitals have caused much damage. Whether it's a malware attack, like WannaCry ransomware that has hit many organizations including health in 2017, or DDoS attacks that can block entire systems and damage equipment, online threats remain a serious problem.
This is why regulations that can handle privacy issues are crucial and the United States has introduced HIPAA (Law on Portability and Liability in Health Insurance), while the EU has introduced the GDPR (General Regulation) on data protection).
However, there is another problem with data management systems in hospitals, which concerns software innovations. These updates must reach the level of the entire organization, which often takes time and leaves hospitals vulnerable to attack. It is also a problem of patients who do not have control over their data, which may be wrong, accessible by someone without proper authorization, or be endangered in some other way.
These and other problems create confusion and tensions in the industry, which interrupt the efficiency of data management which was the original goal. By far, the greatest concern is data security, and if this is not achieved, all other use cases are affected. However, data protection can often have a significant impact on the efficiency of communication, which is the original goal, as stated. In other words, data can flow freely between organizations to achieve the best efficiency, or they can be guaranteed, but difficult to obtain.
Blockchain in health care
The introduction of blockchain technology seems to solve all problems and provides a secure way to achieve data, high security and gives patients control over who can access their information. At least, this is what the situation looks like at first sight. The problem lies in the fact that new problems appear, particularly when it comes to data privacy.
Many blockchain platforms have been designed to publicly disseminate data, which is something they are trying to change through different methods, such as adding new levels that would obscure private information. However, even this is not as simple as it may seem, since all the different levels have to interact. Otherwise, the blockchain will not be useful.
Blockchain technology offers numerous cases of use in the health sector and most of its potential is the sharing and storage of quick and simple information, low cost, transparency and data protection, since the information stored on the blockchain can not be modified, manipulated or canceled.
Furthermore, the medical history of patients would be under their control, which would allow them to choose who can see them, which aspects of the data are accessible and in the same way. Not to mention the medical research data, which often requires millions of dollars and years of research. If they are not stored correctly, information may be lost, modified, or impacted in some other way, often resulting in incorrect searches. With blockchain technology, the possibility that something like this would be greatly reduced.
There's still a big security flaw
While the blockchain technology it protects itself in the ways described above, but still has to assume that users are willing to allow others to view the data they are sharing, which is not always the case. For example, sometimes you need to send specific information to a computer for a purpose, but the computer owner should not be able to see it.
This is often the case when specific verification is required, but the patient willing to provide it does not want to share his entire medical history. This is where additional tools can be useful, especially those that can encrypt data and isolate information that should not be shared. In this way, the combination of blockchain and additional software can protect data even when it is necessary to be exposed to others for a specific purpose.
Another use case would be to share information about unique medical circumstances among the researchers. Only by protecting certain parts of information, such as the identity of the patient, would the researchers still be able to access details about the patient's case.
The use of blockchain in the health sector can improve data security and patient anonymity without affecting the effectiveness of the system. It would also include low costs and greater data accuracy, which is ultimately one of the main objectives for any industry. And, with new solutions to common problems, it is possible that it will not take long before the use of blockchain becomes a reality and perhaps even a standard practice.