Blockchain in Healthcare: A Primer

Blockchain in Healthcare: A Primer

Nilmini Wickramasinghe (Swinburne University of Technology, Australia & Epworth HealthCare, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1371-2.ch015

Abstract

Blockchain is a decentralized, digital ledger that keeps a permanent, unalterable record of transactions between users. One of the greatest advantages of Blockchain is that it is much more secure than other data storage platforms, and thus particularly relevant for healthcare. The chapter serves to outline areas and opportunities for deploying this technology into key healthcare contexts to support effective and efficient operations as well as heightened transparency and trust around activities between and within stakeholders.
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Introduction

Patient data dispersed across varying institutes in the value of the medical care sector known as the data silos and sharing of data is susceptible to a multi-level practice of permission control (Gordon & Catalini, 2018). As a result of this, most often, critical data is inaccessible and unavailable at the time when they are needed urgently (Gordon & Catalini, 2018). Dimitrov (2019) claims that Blockchain can address this challenge with health data exchange by serving as a foundation for a reliable decentralized database. It can enhance one-stop access to the entire health history of an individual across all the medical physicians Dimitrov (2019) . Access control systems that are built using trust in blockchain places patients in control of their information Dimitrov (2019) . They can gain consent and access rights to external parties such as scientists to have access to all or even a subset of their health records Dimitrov (2019) . This element of the blockchain fits nicely with the patient-centric structure of the medical sector where the blockchain can act as a catalyst encouraging trust (Gordon, & Catalini, 2018).

The records stored in the blockchain technology are absolute and cannot be altered or even deleted (Gordon, & Catalini, 2018). According to Delgado-Mohatar, Fierrez, Tolosana, & Vera-Rodriguez, (2019), this feature of blockchain offers primitives such as provenance and data reliability which can be utilized in building solutions to mitigate drug counterfeiting and clinical fraud. For example, deceitful results and removal of information in medical investigations which fail to align with the scientist’s bias or the funding source can be controlled by strengthening the integrity of information in blockchain (Frandsen & Joynt, 2015). Additionally, it enhances the storing of the indisputable log of subject’s consent in a healthcare trial (Frandsen & Joynt, 2015). In terms of financial views, blockchain helps in saving hundreds of billions of dollars, especially for the pharmaceutical sector as it helps in defining a chain of custody in the supply chain (Frandsen & Joynt, 2015).

With the blockchain technology, it is possible to write custom laws and regulations hence forming contracts on the blockchain (Frandsen & Joynt, 2015). This process is similar to that of the real world contracts and is majorly legally binding (Frandsen & Joynt, 2015). These types of contracts in blockchain are known as smart contracts (Frandsen & Joynt, 2015) and can be used in various processes within medical care including insurance and billing which aids in automating the whole process and minimizing the expenses.

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