The issues of healthcare data security and interoperability become critical when we consider the sensitive nature of this information and the need for healthcare providers to access this data quickly to provide the best possible care to their patients. Blockchain technology has the potential to transform the ways patient data is stored, managed, and accessed, providing a transparent and effective solution to healthcare data interoperability and security.
In this article, we will discover the advantages of leveraging blockchain for healthcare data protection, examine its possible impact on patient data interoperability and take a look at real-world applications of this innovative technology in the healthcare industry.
The Current State of Healthcare Data Security and Interoperability
Healthcare data security and interoperability are two sides of the same coin, and both of them are equally essential for improving the quality of medical care delivery. While healthcare data security refers to the protection of patients’ sensitive information according to legal and technical standards, patient data interoperability means the opportunity for different healthcare providers to access this information in an authorized and ethical way.
However, ensuring both patient data security and interoperability is easier said than done. There are several healthcare data security challenges and interoperability concerns that must be addressed to achieve this goal.
- Lack of standardization in data formats. The main barrier to healthcare data interoperability is that it is often fragmented and siloed across different systems, making it difficult for providers to access and share patient information seamlessly. It can result in errors, delays, and inefficiencies that can compromise patient safety and quality of care.
- Data gaps. Too many data gaps are the main issue for digital health companies when obtaining parent data from third-party vendors.
- Internal and external data security threats. According to the Healthcare Cybersecurity Year in Review Report, healthcare data breaches have doubled during the last 3 years. There are both internal and external data security threats, while the rise of healthcare data interoperability may lead to even more data breaches if proper security measures are not put in place.
- Regulatory challenges. HIPAA and the 21st Century Cures Act provide important guidance for protecting patient data and promoting interoperability. However, the requirements of these documents are complex, meaning that they are difficult to understand and implement correctly. Some of the healthcare data security standards are also criticized for being outdated. Long story short, staying legally compliant requires significant investment, time, and effort from healthcare companies, while failing to meet these requirements promises a huge fine.
- Lack of specific technical skills. With the increasing use of technology in healthcare, there is a growing need for professionals with specialized technical skills to manage and secure patient data, for example, blockchain security engineer or blockchain security analyst. Speaking of patient data security and interoperability, each of the systems should be developed with protocols, encryption, access controls, and other technical specifics in mind, while tricky legal compliance regulations make this process more challenging.
How Blockchain Technology Can Improve Healthcare Data Security and Interoperability
The global value of blockchain technology in the healthcare market is expected to reach $16,3 billion by 2031, compared to only $531 million in 2023. Being a decentralized ledger that records transactions in a secure and transparent manner, it’s not surprising that blockchain has the potential to power healthcare data security solutions of the next generation. Leveraging this innovation for patient data security and interoperability promises the next benefits:
- Enhanced data privacy. In case healthcare providers are using a blockchain-based patient data system, the latter get an opportunity to control their data with the help of private keys. They can use these keys for managing access to their data, which improves trust between patients and medical care providers. In addition to private keys, blockchain-based systems can also use smart contracts to automate the process of granting and revoking access to patient data.
- Streamlined data sharing. Since blockchain is a distributed ledger, it eliminates the need for data transfer intermediaries, reducing the time and cost associated with data sharing. Smart contracts, which are automated, also eliminate the need for manual processes and reduce the risk of errors significantly.
- Improved data accuracy. When leveraging blockchain for healthcare data security and interoperability, it becomes a single source of patient data, meaning that both patients and healthcare providers can access the same data at the same time, which is up-to-date and complete.
Promising Use Cases of Blockchain for Patient Data Security and Interoperability
Now, let’s discover how exactly blockchain can be used for healthcare data security and interoperability, plus explore the examples of blockchain-based healthcare startups that serve this goal.
- Secure patient identity management. Blockchain technology can be used to securely manage patient identities by creating a blockchain-based digital identity for each patient. This block of information should contain the patient’s personal information and medical history, while only patients themselves can control who has access to their data. For instance, blockchain in healthcare startups such as Civic and Patientory are already working on blockchain-based identity management solutions for healthcare.
- Secure data sharing. As a logical continuation of the previous use case, blockchain technology allows both patients and healthcare providers to share information with each other securely and seamlessly. A unified patient data format also enables ultimate data interoperability.
- Clinical trial management. As for the example of a blockchain for healthcare startup that serves this goal, there is Nebula Genomics. This platform allows patients to share their genomics data with scientists. In this regard, leveraging blockchain technology for healthcare can significantly contribute to medical science development, bringing researchers closer to finding the cure to untreatable diseases to date.
- Healthcare payments and billing. Like the way blockchain can be used for securing financial transactions, it can add transparency to healthcare payments and billing. For example, a smart-contract-based platform for managing claims and payments can automate the claims process, reducing errors and improving efficiency.
- Medical record management. Creating a blockchain-based electronic health record (EHR) system is one of the most promising use cases of this technology when it comes to medical record management. In this system, patient health information is stored on a decentralized blockchain network, which can be accessed by authorized healthcare providers and patients themselves. Blockchain technology also improves the security of medical records by using cryptographic techniques to protect patient data.
Potential Challenges and Limitations of Blockchain in Healthcare
Despite blockchain being a powerful technology to transform patient data security and there are many prominent blockchain healthcare startups that prove it, there are still some challenges medical care companies face when they start leveraging blockchain.
- Regulatory challenges. As we have said, healthcare data is regulated strictly, while the requirements are diverse and complex to comply with. Implementing blockchain adds a little more confusion to this issue since the technology is difficult to reconcile with existing regulations.
- Technical challenges. Another challenge of using blockchain for healthcare data security and interoperability is technical complexity. Blockchain technology is still relatively new, and there are not so many blockchain healthcare application development specialists to help medical companies embrace this innovation.
- Ethical considerations. Finally, there are also some concerns regarding data ownership, consent, and transparency. Plus, there is an issue of equity when it comes to blockchain technology. While the latter is called to improve patient outcomes for all patients, some of them still may not have access to the hardware and software needed to access their health data on the blockchain, or may not have the technical skills to use it effectively.
By leveraging the power of distributed ledgers, smart contracts, and standardized data formats, healthcare organizations can take their patient data management, storage, sharing, and protection processes to the next level. Such healthcare startups using blockchains like MedRec, Akiri, Gem, and others are already changing the ways healthcare organizations use patient data for better outcomes and improved trust.
So, if the opportunities blockchain opens up for healthcare data security sound worth getting for your medical organization, or you have a promising blockchain-based healthcare startup idea in mind, you are at the right place then. At Tino Agency, we specialize in blockchain development services for healthcare and digital health.
Our latest knowledge of healthcare development practices, deep understanding of blockchain and its potential, as well as comprehensive awareness in legal compliance issues, allow us to offer cutting-edge solutions that can help healthcare organizations improve patient outcomes, reduce costs, and enhance the overall quality of healthcare delivery.
Blockchain technology is a secure and decentralized system that allows for transparent and immutable recording of transactions that can’t be reversed. While the definition of blockchain doesn’t change depending on the industry it is used for, the use cases of this technology can be diverse. For example, in healthcare, it is mainly used for better patient data security and interoperability, transparent healthcare payments, and drug supply chain management.
Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize the ways healthcare providers access, manage, protect, and share patient data. Most importantly, it allows for storing patient data in the most secure way by providing an immutable record of data transition and allowing patients to manage their sensitive data access on their own. Blockchain also contributes to better healthcare data interoperability by providing a standardized format for data exchange, and in this case, blockchain-based healthcare systems become the only source of patient data.
There are several prominent examples of blockchain in healthcare. For instance, it can be used to create a secure and interoperable Electronic Health Record (EHR) system. There are also some prominent blockchain healthcare startups, like Nebula Genomics. It is based on smart contracts and allows patients to share their genomic data with the researchers in a secure way.