Everything You Should Know About Blockchain for Healthcare

11 minute read

Blockchain technology has become a transformative force across industries, including in healthcare. In essence, it’s a secure digital ledger technology that can handle patient data and supply chains. 

This guide will go through the details of how to use blockchain for healthcare. You’ll also learn about some real-world examples in the industry. Read on to find out how applied blockchain technology applications are reshaping the future of healthcare delivery.

Blockchain Technology

Blockchain is a decentralized and unchangeable database. This means that it stores data across multiple locations. This system provides a lot of security. It also streamlines asset tracking and transaction recording within a network. 

Core Concepts of Blockchain

How does it work? In simple terms, the system consists of several connected blocks that encrypt information. Each block has transaction details, a timestamp, and a cryptographic hash of the preceding block.

A cryptographic hash is an equation that helps verify the data. It’s a digital fingerprint that makes it impossible for hackers to see the actual data it represents.

Meanwhile, a timestamp shows the exact moment data entry happens. It records when a block of code gets added to the chain. Timestamps are important for ensuring the validity and security of blockchain. They prevent double-spending and tampering.

These components create an irreversible chain of interlinked and verified information. The growth of the timestamped chain of blocks is perpetual. Each new block references the content of the one before it.

The system links different blocks through peer-to-peer (P2P) nodes. Each node digitally signs the transaction using a private key — this process is called mining. Users who access the P2P nodes are in charge of mining and maintaining the different blocks.

There are different kinds of blockchain. Each has different levels of accessibility and serves a specific data task based on the user’s actions. The main types include:

  • Public blockchain: This type of blockchain is open and accessible to everyone. Public blockchains rely on smart contracts to verify data. These smart contracts use written codes with predetermined conditions to automatically execute an agreement. Examples include Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin. Because they are public, anyone can participate in and mine transactions — as long as they have the right hardware. However, public blockchains use a lot of electricity to legitimize transactions.
  • Private blockchain: Private blockchains are stricter. Only authorized users can join the network and transact. So, private blockchains aren’t as decentralized as public ones. Enterprise applications that value high security, privacy, and scalability often use private blockchains. However, this type of blockchain still has to comply with regulatory and governance standards. 
  • Consortium blockchain: Consortium blockchains combine features from public and private ones. In this context, groups of organizations form the network handling data transactions and managing the system. This feature provides a balance between decentralization and control. The healthcare industry, where many stakeholders need to collaborate and maintain high levels of security, often uses this setup. Consortium blockchains rely on strong encryption for transaction verification.

Overview of Decentralization and Security Features

Decentralization is a cornerstone of blockchain technology. This means there’s no one central authority in charge. Instead, P2P networks confirm entries into the blockchain. Also, transactions don’t need a central server to occur, as P2P nodes validate them.

Additionally, blockchain systems use cryptography, including hashes and digital signatures, to protect data. This makes data incomprehensible to anyone who doesn’t have the key. And, if a hacker does try to tamper with a block’s data, that block breaks down. Then, the rest of the chain becomes aware of the change, and the network will adjust to preserve security.

The Importance of Blockchain in the Healthcare Sector

Organizations in the healthcare industry face many global privacy, quality of care, and information security challenges. It’s also important to protect patient data. But different organizations may not have the same data structures and workflows, even when they’re in the same healthcare system. To collaborate, they need effective ways to share healthcare-related information. Luckily, blockchain technology can address data distribution and security challenges.

In 2022, the value of blockchain technology in healthcare was $1.97 billion, and this value will only continue growing. The unique perks of blockchain in healthcare contribute to this growth. The decentralized blockchain ledger can change how your healthcare organization manages, shares, and protects information. As a result, it can help you better serve patients and become more efficient.

The Key Benefits of Implementing Blockchain in Healthcare

Healthcare blockchains can handle the complex and security concerns of medical data. Some of the helpful blockchain technology traits include the following. 

Enhanced Data Security and Privacy

Blockchain uses a distributed database to store its data. With so many nodes protecting information, the system makes data breaches and fraud unlikely. Also, all the nodes in a distributed network agree on the ledger state through a protocol. This feature ensures transparent, tamper-proof, and secure healthcare data management. The data remains reliable and secure, even if a few nodes are faulty or malicious.

Also, a decentralized approach protects healthcare data against distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) cyberattacks. These attacks happen when hackers target an entire network or server by flooding it with internet traffic. They can lead to service disruptions, financial losses, and reduced trust with patients and stakeholders. For instance, an attacker could infect a hospital’s computers with malware. Then, this system’s resources get overloaded with requests, preventing users from accessing it. Blockchain prevents such attacks because it doesn’t rely on a central network.

Improved Transparency and Traceability in Healthcare Transactions

Blockchain-based systems can share sensitive data across a network of computers. That’s because multiple nodes first have to verify a transaction before storing any data. Health services records, invoices, and patient data are then encrypted with digital signatures. This change creates tamper-proof records, making it hard to falsify documents. The result? Traceable and accountable records for stakeholders and healthcare providers. 

Efficient and Secure Medical Data Management

Using blockchain for healthcare data monitoring can optimize your electronic health records. For one, smart contracts help verify documents before they’re stored. This reduces errors associated with manual data entry. Also, a healthcare and blockchain network’s stored data can automatically integrate into different health system platforms. This interoperability improves the quality and coordination of healthcare. 

Real-World Use Cases of Blockchain in Healthcare

Blockchain is changing how patients and healthcare professionals interact, especially as AI enters the picture. Below are some real-world examples of blockchain solutions for healthcare.

Blockchain for Securing Electronic Health Records (EHRs)

Patient data management is a complex task, as each person’s case and history is unique. However, you need comprehensive medical history records for personalized patient care. 

Sharing patient data through insecure platforms is risky. Some platforms may lack measures to prevent data vulnerability and breaches. The patient could also lack control over their data, or organizations may own their information without patient consent. These are all huge threats to reputation and compliance.

Blockchain is a solution for robust patient data management. It provides a structured storage system accessible only to authorized professionals. The technology enables you to store patient data safely. An authorized doctor can later access the data after a patient’s consent. 

Sensitive data also remains remotely accessible. Healthcare organizations can access information through APIs for seamless collaboration across diverse systems. Doctors and providers can request data as needed.

In addition, blockchain can integrate with Internet of Things devices, such as wearable health monitors. This helps you continuously monitor vital signs and better serve the needs of patients. Also, patients can share data anonymously. Healthcare institutes can use this information to improve their research and systems. IoT-blockchain-healthcare integrations enable faster decision-making and can even save lives for those with critical conditions.  

Blockchain for Drug Traceability and Supply Chain Management

The pharmaceutical industry faces a serious challenge of counterfeit drugs. Fake drugs comprise about 10 to 30% of the pharmaceutical market, causing significant losses in revenue. A compromise in the supply chain also results in poor quality and lowered patient safety. Blockchain technology offers an innovative solution to improve product traceability for this market. 

That’s because the verifiable ledger provides timestamped transaction blocks that make it impossible to alter data. For instance, a pharmaceutical company registers all its drugs on the blockchain. A drug marked as absent on the system gets flagged as fake. This prompt detection allows you to eliminate counterfeit products on the market. 

Beyond preventing counterfeit drugs, blockchain establishes an end-to-end solution. The technology allows for seamless collaboration among manufacturers, retailers, and patients. Plus, enhanced traceability through blockchain can fortify the integrity of pharmaceutical supply chains.

Blockchain in Health Insurance Claims Processing

In healthcare billing and claims processing, fraudulent activities can happen. Some examples include overbilling patients and misrepresenting health conditions. These practices harm patients’ interests and providers’ financials. They also cause delays and difficulties for intermediaries who process claims.

Blockchain can offer a better way to manage healthcare billing and claims. Providers can avoid overcharging or unauthorized services. This makes the billing system more transparent and fair for patients. 

A blockchain tool like jSign by Consensus Cloud Solutions can also enhance the claim process. This tamper-proof eSignature solution introduces automation and streamlines the entire claim process. Also, patients can better control their medical data and consent to payment processing easily.

Tips for Implementing Blockchain in Healthcare

Blockchain offers data security, interoperability, and patient privacy solutions in healthcare. However, blockchain faces challenges in healthcare adoption. To overcome these barriers, you need strategic measures. Here are some tips to better integrate blockchain in the healthcare industry.

Ensure Compliance With Data Protection Regulations

Blockchain offers inherent security when it comes to patient data, but there are still risks of data misuse. To address this, lawmakers have established strong data protection policies, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. 

Complying with these rules is important for preserving the privacy and security of patient data. It enables effective health information exchange while maintaining healthcare data quality. 

Overcome Integration Challenges With Legacy Systems

Legacy systems are outdated but often essential technologies for an organization. In a legacy system, you may have accumulated a lot of valuable data about patients. They might also be stable, reliable, and familiar to your staff. Blockchain technology helps improve the performance and transparency of legacy systems.

To integrate blockchain with legacy systems, you must adapt it to your existing organizational goals and processes. It entails:

  • Incorporating blockchain as an additional layer
  • Establishing interfaces for communication between legacy systems and the blockchain network
  • Substituting specific legacy components with blockchain solutions

Consensus Unite can help solve integration problems. It facilitates interoperability by simplifying clinical workflows within a user-friendly platform. This solution enhances communication and connectivity across the entire spectrum of care.

Educate Healthcare Professionals on Blockchain Implementation

Blockchain technology can improve healthcare delivery and reduce administrative costs. However, many in the healthcare industry don’t know what blockchain technology does, let alone how to use it. This barrier limits the potential application of blockchain in healthcare. To solve this problem, healthcare professionals need trainings and resources that teach about blockchain and its advantages. They also need to know how to use the technology in their field.

Secure Your Healthcare Data Today

Blockchain technology in healthcare has a lot of potential to address critical challenges. It’s decentralized, immutable, and transparent. Adopting the innovation supports data security, smooth billing, and operational efficiency. Luckily, Consensus Cloud Solutions is here to help you unlock the full potential of blockchain.

We offer blockchain as a service, employing cloud-based solutions to design, host, and execute blockchains on the cloud. Our services ensure help you adapt to the cloud infrastructure to meet your organization’s evolving needs. Explore the future of healthcare data security by requesting a demo today.