Blockchain technology may potentially transform the healthcare industry. While that statement might sound like hyperbole, industry leaders are quickly sizing up the technology’s advantages. In theory, blockchain technology has the capacity to change the power dynamics between patient and provider. It also offers providers opportunities for better communication and collaboration between providers. The three areas below best reflect these changes.
Healthcare Data Accessibility
The general public continues to lose trust in how companies manage their personal data. This is particularly true with online data, where the desire for individual data ownership is quickly gaining steam, Blockchain technology promises to make such desires a reality, impacting multiple industries in the process. Foremost among these is the healthcare industry, where concern for personal privacy and data security remain paramount.
Whereas patients must invest considerable trust in their healthcare provider, blockchain technology enables patient data to securely exist outside their control. In brief, distributed ledger technology ensures that the patient controls access to such data via a private key. Moreover, add-on solutions exist to customize what data is viewed. As Matt Jackson from the Institute for Governance explains:
The most interesting feature of blockchain in the health sector is the ability of patients to own and control their own health information. If all this information was linked to an identity patients control, they could decide who gets to see what. Maybe a knee specialist doesn’t need to access your sexual health history. Blockchain could allow for this level of personal control. (medium)
Given the current healthcare paradigm, the notion that patients should control their own health data seems somewhat radical. This idea is nonetheless consistent with current trends, particularly those that seek to foster personal ownership and autonomy. Indeed, the move may very well promote interactions that are more transactional than personal in scope. On the flip side, the records burden that currently rests with providers will be greatly alleviated.
Healthcare Data Security
Electronic medical records currently reside in what can best be described as small centralized data silos, As such, the data is easily prone to hackers, as the growing number of medical record thefts attest. At first glance, medical records might seem an unlikely target for hackers. However, these records contain insurance information as well as social security data, driver’s license, and credit card numbers. All of which can be sold for a $1,000 on the darknet.
Blockchain technology prevents such data breaches by eliminating any single point of failure. Unlike a client-server system, the blockchain relies on a distributed network and is thus far less susceptible to hacking. While more sophisticated attacks occasionally occur (e.g., 51% Attacks, Sybil attacks), technological advances will make their likelihood vanish as well (as will be explained below).
Healthcare Systems Interoperability
While securing patient data is critically important, being able to seamlessly exchange such data is essential as well. At present, the various healthcare IT systems in existence are obliged to contend with various incompatible medical records systems. Blockchain technology can resolve this dilemma by serving as the common backend for data access. Once implemented, industry leaders natural next step would be to create a master patient index. However, as noted by one health IT company president:
The primary challenge in accurately matching patient records to a master patient index is the lack of a global or universal patient ID. As a distributed ledger, blockchain can keep track of what’s changed in a patient record and even assign a universal patient ID — but it cannot identify the correct patient unless all systems that would interact with this central blockchain database can supply the correct universal patient ID whenever a change is made to the patient record. (healthcareitnew.com)
To achieve this, the medical records industry would first need to standardize its data identifiers. Unfortunately, calls for standardizing these records have gone unheeded for years. However, the blockchain somewhat diminishes the existing disincentives in this regard (particularly system incompatibility). Patient-control over health data will inevitably come about, despite whatever regulatory and political speed bumps may occur along the way (including the US funding ban on creating a unique patient identifier).
XTRABYTES Can Resolve Industry Challenges
As a blockchain development platform, XTRABYTES’ code-agnostic nature may be help foster healthcare innovation. This is especially true for healthcare developers intent on deploying a blockchain in the programming language of their choice. That’s because the XTRABYTES platform enables developers to create DApps (decentralized applications) in any language and deploy them on the XBY network. Their blockchain can then interact with the DApp they have deployed. They may even elect to store their DApps data in XTRABYTES’ X-VAULT, a decentralized cloud storage module.
For any industry that values data security, the XTRABYTES network is even more appealing. Their blockchain does not rely on untrusted, randomly selected peer-to-peer network nodes to sign and create transaction blocks. Instead, they rely on a trusted STATIC nodes network to achieve consensus to move transactions forward. Ultimately, it’s these trusted STATIC nodes that validate and sign-off on every transaction.
By using multiple STATIC nodes to validate a transaction, the XTRABYTES network is effectively impossible to hack. Creating a fake STATIC signed block would require all private keys held by the STATIC nodes to be known. Moreover, if a hacker seeks to take over a network node, that rogue node will fail to achieve consensus with other STATIC nodes and will be asked to correct itself. If it does not, it will be blacklisted from moving forward.
Healthcare industry leaders are only beginning to consider the many advantages that blockchain technology offers. As with any disruptive technology, the industries impacted will search for solutions that are both versatile and secure. The XTRABYTES platform offers those features in spades, generating innovation and fostering consumer confidence as a result.