Blockchain technology first came to the spotlight as a transaction ledger for the public in cryptocurrency bitcoin in 2008. However, the idea of blockchain first came into play as a research project in 1991. With time, more people got aware of blockchain technology. Its advantages, and applications in diverse sectors.
Presently, the global blockchain industry is valued at over $7 billion and is projected to reach 163.83 billion by 2029. While the growth in blockchain technology usage and demand has resulted in high market potential and growth scope, it is no longer limited to just the finance sector but has become widespread.
Healthcare is one such sector that has been witnessing a significant revolution with the introduction of blockchain technology in digital health. But what is the exact use of blockchain technology in healthcare? Or, what are healthcare blockchains or, the meaning of crypto medical? In this blog, we will cover it all along with the basics of the blockchain.
What is Blockchain Technology?
A blockchain is basically a type of database that is distributed among the different nodes of a computer network and is used to store information electronically. Blockchain technology is used to collect information in groups that are called blocks and form a chain of data called a blockchain.
This record-keeping technology comes with high security that makes it impossible to change, hack, or forge data in the system. Here the data stored inside the blocks may vary based on the type of blockchain or blockchain technology used, and the relevant sector it is used in. The main purpose of blockchain technology is to store digital information securely without letting it get altered, deleted, hacked, or compromised.
With the advent of advanced technical solutions, the usage of blockchains is increasing exponentially around the world. For estimation, the global spending on blockchain is expected to grow to nearly $19 billion by 2024 and crypto medical remains a significant contributor to it. Before we delve deeper into how digital health is transforming with healthcare blockchains, let's give an overview of the importance of healthcare blockchains and their relevance.
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Importance of Healthcare Blockchains
There are several benefits of healthcare blockchains and here we have listed out some of the top ones -
As previously stated, the Blockchain uses a decentralized approach that makes it hack-proof and ensures that no one copy of data is compromised. All of the hospital's commodity hardware can be made to run on these decentralized systems. All man-made and natural disasters will be eliminated, assuring complete security.
Furthermore, researchers can use the power saved by these devices to perform complex computations in order to develop cures, medications, and therapies for a variety of diseases and conditions.
Single Source of Data
Data plays a very vital role in the healthcare sector. Patient records, their vitals, patient history, medicine dosage, and other related data must be stored with high security. Healthcare blockchains are what help serve this purpose to store crucial data in a single source. Being completely secure from getting modified, deleted, hacked, or compromised, healthcare blockchains are often the first choice for data storage and access in the healthcare sector.
24/7 Data Monitoring & Access
It is not unknown that continuous monitoring is a must-have criterion in the healthcare sector when it comes to user data. Starting from the patients’ oxygen levels to their blood pressure readings - all such crucial data need to be monitored 24/7 and accessed as and when required. Traditional healthcare DBMS (Database Management System) lacks one significant feature - impenetrable security against being altered, deleted, or hacked. Healthcare blockchains solve this concern by making data monitoring & access easy, fast, secure, and efficient in healthcare.
Strict Rules through Smart Contracts
Smart contracts are the programs stored on the blockchains and are executed only when a predefined set of conditions and protocols are met. Healthcare blockchains having this feature helps in maintaining strict healthcare rules and protocols when it comes to accessing patients' healthcare-related data or other confidential information.
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Use of Blockchain Technology in Healthcare
Now that you have a clear idea on the importance of healthcare blockchains, let’s walk you through the use of blockchain technology in healthcare.
1. Electronic Health Records (EHR)
The ideal scenario for Electronic Health Records is to keep a permanent medical record that is accessible to all members of the care team, including physicians, lab technicians, and others, at the point of service and on time. Patient data is currently kept across many organizations throughout the patient's lifespan in current EHR deployments. Physicians record a few areas of a patient's medical record, such as medication problems and diagnoses, and they keep stewardship of those sections after the patient has been treated. A patient owns the stewardship of a medical record in blockchain implementation, and clinicians will be granted access on a need-to-know basis using "smart contracts."
One of the key challenges for EHRs is the accurate management of records, which includes the repair of any incorrectly recorded data. Apart from guaranteeing data integrity, diverse providers and hospital systems confront interoperability issues, resulting in ineffective, if any, data sharing. Health records are fragmented due to a lack of cooperation in data management and exchange. And undoubtedly, healthcare blockchains give a compact all-in-one solution for all these making electronic health record-keeping easier, secure, and streamlined.
Smart contracts automate and track state transitions in a system, such as viewership rights or new record production. Blockchain records are cryptographically hashed to ensure data integrity. The care team can add new records to a patient's profile, and the patient can authorize which providers have access to the information. This encourages patient and provider participation and aids in the development of patient records. The blockchain design is based on decentralization and cryptography concepts, which could lead to more secure and interoperable EHR systems.
2. Clinical Research
While there has been significant progress in shifting medical data from paper to digital records, the healthcare industry is still grappling with difficulties related to patient data exchange across providers and organizations. Patients may move locations, change health insurance, and change healthcare providers for their treatments at any time during their lifetimes. The majority of their detailed medical records are kept in silos by each hospital or provider. In addition, each medical entity would have saved patient data using its own storage structure and semantics. This creates roadblocks when it comes to data sharing. These roadblocks are in place partially owing to the nature of the data in question (Protected Health Information) and in order to avoid data blockage during transmission.
This has ramifications not only for efficiently treating patients across many organizations but also for clinical research, which requires real-world medical data to conduct research and test hypotheses in real-world scenarios using real-world data. Deidentified patient data is required for clinical trials. Consolidating and de-identifying patient data takes a lot of time and work, and it costs a lot of money. The availability of huge collections of real-life de-identified raw data, analyzable datasets for secondary analysis, and meta-analysis is a significant aspect in achieving improved accuracy in clinical research and trial outcomes. According to polls, the majority of customers are willing to provide their medical records for analysis and study as long as their privacy is Protected.
Here’s where healthcare blockchains play significant roles. There is a great degree of transparency because trust is embedded into the blockchain database. Records are publicly writable by everyone and are not owned (stored) by anyone, with encryption providing data protection. A shared ledger can promote information sharing and community-driven clinical studies by utilizing private and public-key encryption. Patients have direct control over their medical data, including the ability to approve or deny access to care providers and organizations. A platform like this would be critical in assisting research organizations in gaining direct and secure access to a large database of comprehensive and accurate clinical data.
3. Blood Chain Tracking
The present challenge with blood donor monitoring, particularly in developing countries, is that there is no uniform, low-cost, and transparent system in place. We can trace a receiver from a blood donor where specific blood has been donated, the donor's compliance information, and if / where it has been tested using blockchain technology. But our company doesn't stop there; it also makes general medical data, such as shot records, available on the blockchain.
This is in contrast to a healthcare blockchain-based environment, which consists of blockchain-hosted medical data that is mined and evaluated using distributed AI. As a result, researchers can forecast the effects of certain diseases with near-perfect accuracy, and the government can verify compliance in medicine, such as blood donation.
4. Plasma Supply Chain
In this part, we'll look at some of the ways blockchain can be used in the plasma supply chain. We don't want to lay down a complete specification; instead, we want to generate ideas for additional research and experimentation. It's easy to see how blockchain could be applied to the plasma supply chain in the same way it is to the pharmaceutical supply chain. The application cases linked to preventing the falsification of plasma products and plasma logistics are self-evident.
To begin with, blockchain might be used in the same way that MediLedger is used to combat
fake pharmaceuticals. A private blockchain hosted by plasma supply chain nodes representing supply chains would be the major component here. A unique identifier would be provided to each plasma supply, which would be kept in the blockchain with the certificate of origin. As the delivery moves through the supply chain, each step is recorded in the blockchain, along with other pertinent data. Supply chain parties can use their nodes to connect to the blockchain and inquire about delivery origins and individual donations while retaining a high level of privacy. The major role of blockchain in this scenario would be to validate logistics transactions and create an immutable ledger, preventing attempts to tamper with origin information or inject phony plasma into the supply chain.
Verification of Medical Staff Credentials
It is pivotal to verify the information related to the medical staff credentials for authentication purposes. Their expertise, degree, previous institutes, experience, previous workplaces, and other related information must be verified and at the same time, it should be ensured that they are not compromised.
Blockchain technology can not only simplify the hiring process by providing authentic information related to all these, but it also provides high security to ensure such data is not compromised. For instance, US-based ProCredEx has launched a blockchain system to verify the credentials of medical staff. This system is based on the R3 Corda Blockchain Protocol. Be it virtual healthcare solutions delivery or better transparency for sub-contracting organizations - healthcare blockchains have become a crucial component of modern-day digital health.
The Bottom Line
As discussed above, healthcare blockchains have become an integral part of today’s healthcare sector. Hospitals to pharmaceutical and medical sectors - they are being used to provide compact and secure solutions for multiple purposes. With more and more people related to the healthcare profession getting aware of the healthcare blockchains, their applications are expected to become more prominent in the coming years.
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