How is Anonymity Maintained in a Medical Record Blockchain?
There has been a digital data proliferation in almost every sector or field. The potential value of analyzing and assessing data has increased. However, several associated privacy and confidentiality risks have also increased. Digitization and data proliferation can be double-edged swords in whichever field they are applied to, such as manufacturing. However, healthcare is impacted more profoundly by this dichotomy.
A few common issues and concerns associated with digitization are security risks and vulnerabilities. However, the most significant downside of digitized medical care and (EHR) is patient confidentiality and privacy issues.
To minimize the risk of medical errors and oversight and improve quality outcomes, it’s vital for physicians and health professionals to have timely access to a patient’s medical info, provided that such data is kept secure and private.
And blockchain technology and blockchain medical records can help facilitate these complex requirements.
What is Blockchain?
The popular word “blockchain” combines the 2 key components of its unique technology. We can think of a “block” as a reliable record of transactions or interactions. These transactions are secured via a method called cryptography. This method is similar to the code-based data encryptions prevalent in the health sector. The block may represent the formal record of a visit to the doctor’s office. Note that the block has a link to all past visits or transactions, hence creating a “chain.”
Blockchain technology depends on established and reliable cryptographic methods to allow each network participant to interact. Also, there’s no need for trust between the interacting parties.
The main difference between a standard database and a blockchain is the way the data is organized or structured. You should know that a blockchain is a ledger that collects information, including names and addresses, in groups. These groups are called blocks and hold or store information sets.
In any blockchain system, there’s no centralized authority; rather, transaction records and data are stored, maintained, and distributed across all the participants in a network.
Usually, digitized healthcare facilities, hospitals, and clinics use cloud-based databases in order to store their patients’ medical or health records. However, we all know that any confidential and valuable information present on the internet is vulnerable to various risks. Some of these risks are data breaches, hacking attempts, or manipulation. These issues can magnify if the online security levels in these data storage centers aren’t top-notch.
This is why healthcare facilities and hospitals are looking for effective and robust solutions in order to protect and enhance privacy and data security. The latest blockchain-based systems provide reliable solutions to several confidentiality and privacy-related medical issues.
Blockchain in Healthcare Today
An individual’s medical reports often contain their most personal and sensitive details. Understandably, these patients wouldn’t want this data to be accessed or seen by anyone but their reliable family doctor or trusted physician.
The good news is that blockchain’s inherent nature and characteristics allow it to work as a potential privacy enabler. The ledger provides anonymity in modern health and medical systems.
The latest healthcare technology trends, such as artificial intelligence, are improving the delivery of services. Cloud-based programs offer health providers many benefits. Some examples are on-demand storage and HIPAA compliance.
Blockchain helps ensure that valuable transaction or interaction data isn’t stored and maintained in a centralized location. This ensures that the data can’t possibly be accessed or manipulated by hackers and cybercriminals. And this enhances the security of the whole system.
Blockchain Technology May Replace EHRs
Healthcare providers and medical facilities can make the most of blockchain to safely store their patients’ health records. Once you create and sign a medical record, it can be easily written or documented into the blockchain. This provides patients with confidence and proof that their records can’t be changed.
A single and comprehensive blockchain-based approach can allow patients to be the owners of their health data. Blockchain health records would allow crucial information and reports to travel with them securely and safely.
You can encode and store personal healthcare records on the blockchain using a key. This will ensure that the records are only accessible to specific individuals, thereby promoting anonymity and ensuring data privacy.
Four Types of Blockchain That can Store Data
You will be glad to know that health organizations may share a ledger across either a private network or a public network. Note that a public network — as its name implies — is open to everyone. As a result, people and entities can easily participate at any time.
Keep in mind that these are public ledgers and tend to operate or function without the requirement for any identity information. This is why most users on these ledgers adopt pseudonyms.
You may have heard of Bitcoin. It was the first and most important public blockchain network; also, it is the biggest. Did you know that another excellent example is Ethereum? It’s network is designed for complex decentralized applications and smart contracts.
On the other hand, medical organizations may also decide to set up a reliable private network for data storage. This is where all existing users on the platform invite others in order to transact, save data, and interact. Keep in mind that in these cases, the ledger’s transactions are not visible to the public.
A public, also known as permissionless, blockchain network is a network where anybody can participate without any restrictions. The blockchain is governed by either rules or consensus algorithms.
So, public blockchains are open and decentralized computer networks accessible to anybody looking to request and validate a transaction. Keep in mind that public blockchains often use proof-of-stake or proof-of-work consensus mechanisms.
Private or Permissioned Blockchain
A permissioned or private blockchain allows organizations and individuals to set specific controls and limitations on who may access blockchain data. This is why only users who are given permissions can access specific data sets. For example, the Oracle Blockchain Platform is a well-known permissioned blockchain.
As private blockchains aren’t open to all, they have various access restrictions. Individuals and organizations that want to join need permission from a system administrator. In most cases, they are governed by a single entity, meaning they are centralized.
We can define a sidechain as a blockchain that runs parallel to the main blockchain. Sidechains allow users to move various digital assets and data between 2 different blockchains, improving scalability and efficiency in the process.
Consortium or Federated Blockchain
This is a blockchain network where the mining process or consensus process is closely controlled by a preselected number of stakeholders or a preselected set of nodes.
Maintaining Anonymity in an EHR Blockchain
When a blockchain system for EHR is framed as an independent protocol, it guarantees security, anonymity, and privacy. It is achieved through empowering users with control of their confidential data.
Also, blockchain ensures that confidential data stored within it can’t be recreated or replicated without its owner’s permission. Hence, medical data within the blockchain remains safe and untampered.
You may have heard of homomorphic encryption. This blockchain-based and reliable data security tool that facilitates anonymity and security and is often characterized by some common features, such as:
Compactness of ciphertexts is one of the main components of blockchain tech, especially during data transfer and storage. You should know that homomorphic encryption ensures the total data size of your ciphertexts does not increase beyond a pre-determined limit.
Semantic Data Protection
Note that this is an important feature and ensures that hackers or passive cybercriminals don’t get any info from transactional ciphertext sequences. This is true even if these parties choose a plaintext and the public key.
The Application of Blockchain in Healthcare – Potential Benefits
There are many potential benefits and advantages of the application of blockchain in healthcare. However, while considering these benefits, it is important that you don’t overlook regulatory requirements for maintaining the security and privacy of sensitive data, such as PHI, in the US. Blockchain technology can:
- Introduce transparency and efficiency into the highly siloed US healthcare industry
- Allow healthcare providers and clinics to share networks. This can be done without sacrificing data security, privacy, and integrity
- Manage the whole lifecycle of patient records
- Streamline and optimize the lifecycle of medical and healthcare bills
Digitized and inadequately protected patient records and documents in clinics and hospitals can be easy pickings for hackers and cybercriminals. The application of blockchain tech in healthcare promises fail-safe data security of EHRs saved on hospital online networks.
Blockchain’s flexible immutable ledger system allows confidential data transfer, maintenance, and storage to be both decentralized and dynamic.
Data transparency, security, and decentralization are the three main pillars of the blockchain. These features make it almost infallible to third-party hacking attempts, data breaches, or unauthorized manipulation.