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Between 2009 and 2017 alone, there were over 176 million data breaches relating to health records. For model countries like the US, allocating 20% of their GDP to healthcare doesn't seem like a sustainable solution to constant data breaches plaguing the industry. But perhaps, it's time to take a cue from recent BIS Research that reveals that the immediate application and integration of blockchain in healthcare could save more than $100 billion per year in costs related to operations, IT, personnel, support functions, and health data breaches by 2025. So, what is blockchain, and what does it have to offer?
Blockchain refers to a distributed system that generates and stores data records. It comprises digital ledgers represented by blocks, showing how records are changed or accessed on a peer-to-peer network. These records are immutable and held together by cryptographic keys. A single alteration to the records in the block requires the nodes to create a new block with a unique cryptographic key. A new block is generated with every alteration, creating a chain.
As such, manipulating, mimicking, and falsifying data become almost impossible. This explains why the robust security infrastructure enabled by blockchain has unlocked incredible advances in decentralized finance (DeFi), real estate, retail supply, and now, healthcare. Blockchain in healthcare is mainly in its infancy, but so far, it has touched the following areas:
Medical research — enhancing uniform access to a broad spectrum of data, promoting public health reporting and clinical research
Seamless transfer of patients between healthcare providers — patients sharing their health data or electronic medical records through a shareable private key with providers, boosting health information technology and (HIT) collaboration and interoperability
Securing and tracking medical supplies — helping to secure and identify medical supplies and minimize counterfeiting
Tracking diseases — real time disease reporting and analysis of disease patterns, from origins to transmission parameters
Safeguarding genomics — enabling the creation of online marketplaces for genomic information for research and eliminating genomic data theft.
Several blockchain applications have attempted the above solutions, building their typically small-scale frameworks on Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric. Akiri, and BurstIQ, for instance, aim to secure healthcare data to be shared only with parties authorized by patients. Taking things some notches higher, MedicalChain's Myclinic.com implemented Medtokens as fees for video consultations while enhancing ultra-secure, single-point access to patient information.
Blockchain is the new cool and, like every other tech, comes with its fair share of security flaws and environmental concerns. It is up to relevant stakeholders to consolidate its strengths and minimize possible setbacks.
Written By Fasola Monioluwa.
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