When it comes to medical records, privacy is paramount in the healthcare industry. It is for the very same reason that blockchain technology creates some amazing opportunities for innovation and disruption in the sector.
Notorious as the technology powering up Bitcoin cryptocurrency transactions, blockchain is an encrypted ledger of digital transactions, distributed across multiple nodes through a peer-to-peer-type network that also leaves an auditable log trail of the events taking place. Every entry in the ledger is irrevocable, tamper-proof, and shared among authorized parties in a transparent manner.
The technology allows every member that can submit information to have their own copy of the ledger, rather than having all the data hosted on one centralized location. Nevertheless, no new transaction can be input, or data committed, without the majority of nodes agreeing that it is indeed accurate.
This could impact the healthcare industry greatly, as often every such organization has its own version of a patient’s records, and it is common for these entities to have differences between each record without streamlined verification. Therefore it is often the case that if a patient visits several different healthcare providers, each and every record they have can be different from one another, which could create massive complications for their personal health.
In a connected world, medical data and technology will become more integrated and expansive.
The built-in trust-based architecture of blockchain technology creates a well-suited environment for the unification of medical records. As a matter of fact, blockchain is quite suitable for the creation of a common healthcare database that is open to all stakeholders involved in the process—regardless of the systems they use—which will offer great facilitation for the information sharing process. At the same time, the security, integrity, and confidentiality of a patient’s medical history will be safeguarded.
The streamlined data access will allow physicians to offer medical care in a more efficient manner, as well as improve the overall speed of medical research. This is already a reality in some cases, so let’s take a look at some of the most significant blockchain projects involved:
MediBloc aims at putting patients in charge of managing their own medical records, enabling them to exercise ownership and control over their data, as well as who has access to it. Users have full access to their data and can make a conscious choice over who is authorized to view and edit it—from individuals to research institutions and private corporations.
Apart from that, MediBloc focuses on providing a foundation for developers to build new services on top of the platform, thus making use of the stored data to power their applications. This will create a medical data exchange platform and ecosystem to kickstart the redistribution of rights to data ownership in the healthcare industry.
Another project, being developed by the Netherlands-based Dentacoin Foundation, is a decentralized dental health database which stores patient data in a secure and reliable way. It is fully controlled by the users; only they can decide what to store in the database and who has access to it.
This peerless degree of security and control over one’s own data is ensured by the built-in mechanisms of blockchain technology. For dentists, that means easier and more precise prophylaxis and highly individualized treatment plans based on a holistic view of the patient’s medical records.
The database, developed by Medicalchain, allows users to give permission to medical professionals (doctors, hospitals, labs, pharmacists, insurers, and so on) to access the data they have entered on the platform. Each and every access of the data is logged—making it auditable, transparent, and secure—by having it recorded as a transaction on the Medicalchain’s distributed ledger. The patient’s privacy is protected throughout the entire duration of this process.
Medicalchain just recently released the first version of its own telemedicine app, which uses the data stored on the network to help physicians in determining an adequate diagnosis for their telepatients. For a small fee, the app allows for remote consultation with a real healthcare professional, which is then transferred directly to the doctor. Apart from that, the app allows users to “trade” their own medical data, thus creating a marketplace for third parties to purchase this data for research or other purposes.
Petar Stoykov is a community and social media manager at Dentacoin Foundation, Netherlands.