The technological revolution of this century has provided stale industries with an extraordinary amount of innovation. In healthcare, patients can reserve a doctor’s appointment or manage their prescriptions with the ease of a smartphone, but this easy access comes with a cost.
Like many highly secure industries that existed before the technological boom, the healthcare industry is struggling to keep up with advanced forms of cyber attacks.
This is extremely dangerous for both patients and professionals alike. Without proper cybersecurity, patients’ medical data can be stolen and sold on the black market, and practice can incur thousands of dollars in fines from HIPAA(Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) noncompliance penalties.
The healthcare industry is now making moves to incorporate blockchain into its cybersecurity.
Blockchain, most commonly associated with cryptocurrency, is a type of secure, public ledger that connects digital records, called blocks, to other blocks. These blocks are highly encrypted, time-stamped and continuous updated with data from transactions.
Here are 5 ways the industry can use blockchain technology to support their cybersecurity as well as their patients, operations, and personnel
A major benefit to blockchain technology is its use of smart contracts. A smart contract eliminates middlemen from negotiations by digitally facilitating, verifying, or enforcing the terms of a contract.
The smart contract works on an if-then premise. An example is a simple expiration date: once this date arrives, then the smart contract will alert all parties of the expiration and terminate the contract itself.
In healthcare, this means that health organizations and insurance providers can automate payment processes using an artificial third party.
Smart contracts are transparent to all parties, so patients could also use them to easily switch hospitals without needing to fill out forms for their prior hospital – the physicians would know just by viewing the contract.
Using blockchain could help healthcare companies with their large data analytics, especially when the data comes from several departments.
Patients use apps that gather medical data and transfer it to other devices and medical providers, which is not always kept safe.
When their information is not kept secure in one location, it becomes easier for their data to be given to the wrong people. If insurance providers get their hands on private medical information, the cost of health coverage can unjustly fluctuate.
Encryption is one of the most important factors for effective cybersecurity in healthcare, and with blockchain’s extensive data encryption, the safety and privacy of a patient’s information are guaranteed.
Patients can know where their data is being transferred to and who has a right to view it, making sure that their data is transferred to the appropriate recipients.
There is a lot of manual work needed to scout out appropriate patients for clinical trials. The amount of paperwork is enormous, and it’s very likely that perfectly suitable candidates get regularly overlooked.
With blockchain, researchers can easily search for the qualifications needed to acquire potential candidates without having to worry about receiving misinformation.
The clinical studies data can be kept private and organized using blockchain, which is necessary for the HIPAA compliances that Pharma companies must adhere to.
Since all records entered in blockchain have to be verified and each patients’ data gets a unique ID, information cannot be duplicated by accident which wastes time and manpower.
Companies and organizations can also use blockchain for keeping financial records and other bookkeeping needs.
Doctor’s Access and Security
Blockchain can help to transfer secured data between devices for health service providers.
Instead of patients having the onus of transferring paper records from physician to physician, blockchain can allow easy and instant access to medical records between medical professionals.
The US Department of Health and Human Services found that instead of using a localized server or paper documents, it’s actually safer to store patient’s information in a HIPAA compliant cloud server.
Not only does blockchain improve patients’ privacy, but the ability for professionals to easily access patients’ records actually improves diagnosis and patient care, as well.
Transparency with blockchain also comes into play here, as anyone with access to the records can see changes that were made which increases overall understanding of patients’ health.
Patient’s Access and Security
The last and certainly not least useful feature of blockchain in healthcare is the ability for patients to access their own medical records.
In fact, the way that providers would even have access to a patients’ records is because the patients would verify who has access and who doesn’t.
This gives the patients more control of their own medical records. They have the ability to access them at any time or even sell them to healthcare providers, researchers, and insurers.
Cybersecurity threats and data breaches introduce the possibility of medical identity theft, where hackers can steal a person’s medical information, or even their social security number, and sell it on the black market.
When patients use blockchain, they are given the ability to take what hackers want and safely make their own profits on their own terms.
The list above shows just a snippet of the benefits that blockchain technology has for the healthcare industry, especially as the world becomes increasingly digitized.
The healthcare industry is finding that its cybersecurity is slipping through the cracks, and HIPAA Journal reports that each month of 2018, there were about 30 healthcare data breaches reported, and that number has increased to an average of 37 per month in 2019
Blockchain technology is an all-encompassing solution to the security, research, and access problems that patients and professionals face. It allows clinical researchers and medical professionals to organize their data with transparency and accuracy.
This technology is also appealing to patients, as the ability to access and share their medical data as they please results in better diagnosis and possible monetization.
Overall, blockchain solutions are effective in the healthcare industry and their usage is growing with time. It is important for healthcare companies to get involved with this growing trend in order to operate efficiently.
This article was written by Julian Gnatenco @ JGBilling a medical coding company