– Doctors and patients connect to the network using Internet of Things (IoT) devices for health care. The increase in the number of devices connected to the network can cause security problems that the blockchain might be able to solve in the near future.
Blockchain and IoT are a relatively new problem for healthcare space. The IoT increases data flows that can be overwhelming especially when most data flows to a centralized location such as a data silos. Blockchain can help facilitate the flow of IoT data by decentralizing it and helping to make data usable.
IoT can also take advantage of edge computing, which can help decentralize workflows.
Blockchain and edge computing are two decentralized technologies that allow organizations to spread their resources and not rely on a central hub to collect, interpret and redistribute information.
Edge computing, sometimes referred to as fog computing, targets Internet of Things (IoT) devices and alleviates the effort of silent repositories.
Traditionally, data is produced at the edge of the network and transported to the datacenter. Edge computing processes data at the source or at the edge of the network.
An IEEE report said that the growth rate of data generated by a variety of sources between different applications, coupled with the increase in real-time applications, makes traditional cloud computing no longer an efficient way to process data produced at the margins of the network.
The authors of the IEEE reports have defined edge computing as "enabling technologies that allow calculation at the limit of the network, on downstream data on behalf of cloud services and upstream data on behalf of IoT services." The "advantage" is like any resource calculation and network along the path between data sources and cloud data centers. "
By keeping data close to the source, edge computing increases operational efficiency. Edge computing enables end users to access smaller, more specific data rather than accessing information in a centralized cloud-based infrastructure, along with data that they will never need to access.
The increase in IoT devices and organizations that transfer multiple computing tasks to the cloud are the two major edge-processing catalysts in healthcare. The edge computing can contribute to the analysis and produce results for patients almost in real time, so that they do not have to wait and come back for a return visit to learn about their results.
Blockchain is also a decentralized approach to the HIT infrastructure, but focuses more on the exchange of information within an organization and between external organizations.
Blockchain allows users to exchange information without going through a centralized silo. Each inter-organizational transaction consists of a block, which contains the data of the current transaction along with a hash linking to the previous transaction, thus creating a chain. Each transaction is documented and users can not go back and edit past data.
The organizations in the network all have a copy of the data shared via the blockchain and can see who is accessing the data and why. If the data is accessed by an unauthorized user, the network can immediately detect it and take action to protect the data.
Each organization must sign and approve each transaction, as a witness that the transaction has been completed as indicated. The number of witnesses needed to approve any transaction or update eliminates the need for pre-existing trust between organizations.
The adoption of a decentralized approach to HIT infrastructure can help reduce the tension of centralized IT systems as organizations try to adopt new technologies and acquire more data. Regardless of how organizations expand bandwidth for data exchange, centralized systems can withstand so much traffic.
While the decentralization of IT systems is a relatively new approach, it is aimed more at future IT needs as the amount of data produced by doctors and patients continues to increase. IoT and blockchain are two emerging technologies that can help organizations to decentralize their IT infrastructure.