The healthcare industry is seeing several attempts at developing secure digital platforms for the exchange of patient data believing that blockchain-based solutions may have the potential to vastly improve current data sharing systems in national hospitals.
Distributed ledger technology would vastly improve on current centralized forms of data storage, which have been vulnerable to hackers attempting to steal patient data for sale on the black market. Recent high-profile cases such as when cybercriminals breached national healthcare records in Norway earlier this year, potentially exposing more than half of its population’s data to criminal activity.
Using blockchain platforms would mean that only authorized medical professionals would be able to use the data, itself secured by sophisticated cryptography and possibly smart contract technology. This would also make it easier for data sharing among health care specialists, and assist with the digitization of healthcare data.
Current methods of data sharing
In Germany, for example, the use of blockchain in national healthcare has been much discussed over the past few years. Dr. Christina Czeschik, physician and specialist in medical informatics, suggests that the current system of electronic health records (EHR) has many disadvantages that blockchain could bypass, such as those centering around economy, risk, and trustworthiness.
Dr. Czeschik argues that trusted intermediaries are usually expensive to run, especially in healthcare, often leading to lower quality care. Having a central intermediary also means being vulnerable to outside threats, human or otherwise. Finally, she argues that there are “few other industries in which so many different viewpoints and agendas need to be reconciled to achieve a common goal” – which, in this case, is good patient care.
German consultancy Camelot Consulting Group cites the removal and storage of extracorporeal cell therapies in which patients cells are moved in a complex, multistage process. They argue that due to the numbers of professionals involved and logistical factors, the “risk of erroneous data and data misuse is immensely high”.
According to Camelot, a closed loop supply chain utilizing blockchain would prevent any confusion or misuse of samples during therapy.