The healthcare industry falls under the list of largest enterprises, enthralling around 10% of GDP across developed countries. The sector has seen radical innovations in medicines, vaccines, drugs, and clinical tests; however, it requires a healthcare information overhaul. Health Information Exchange (HIE) is one of the crucial elements that obstruct healthcare IT.
The conventional practices of storing and sharing data are slow and vulnerable to attacks, and patients play a negligible role in the system. Data storing and sharing is challenging due to poor data security, diminishing privacy, and operational inefficiencies. There are numerous reasons why PHI (Protected health information) privacy remains challenging, but one major is the lack of uniform architectures and standards. With conventional systems, you can’t ensure trusted access to PII (Personally identifiable information) and PHI exchange between all stakeholders, including patients.
Blockchain-based solutions are developed to introduce a new level of transparency and security into the HIE systems. The blockchain in healthcare provides enhanced security, reliability, data integrity, privacy, and redundancy related to the HIE system.
According to Statista, it is projected that 55% of healthcare applications will have adopted blockchain for commercial deployment by 2025. As per another report, the blockchain market in healthcare was valued at USD 2.12 billion in 2020 and is expected to cross $3.49 billion by 2026, with a CAGR of 8.7% during the forecast period.
Blockchain Helps in Pain-Free Healthcare Information Exchange
It all starts when healthcare providers give services to patients, directing the data to the blockchain network. Identifiable patient information (IPI) is then tracked in the provider’s IT systems. Other standard data fields, transactions, and the patient’s non-identifiable ID are redirected to the blockchain via APIs.
Healthcare providers, clinical researchers, and other healthcare institutions can directly raise a query in the blockchain network through APIs. The blockchain only allows them to access public patient information like age, gender, and diagnosis. Patients can also share their identifiable information with providers/institutions within and outside their health plan.
Blockchain in the Health Information Exchange system follows the below procedure:
For instance, a patient with heart problems travels around the country, catches a fever, and gets admitted to a hospital outside their network due to other serious illnesses. The hospital can take the patient’s private key to access PHI and find out more about the patient’s medical history. The data can be analyzed, and the caregivers could dispense better and fast treatments. Also, caregivers can significantly reduce the risk of complications in getting patients’ information from various systems.
Significant Changes that blockchain introduces to HIE
Blockchain-empowered solutions offer a new architecture that enables caregivers to keep PHI private and engage patients. Let’s take a deeper look into the changes that blockchain introduced in HIEs:
1. Builds a chain of trust
Blockchain offers peer-to-peer transactions composed of interlinked transaction blocks in a digital ledger. Blockchain offers no centralized authority, and a participant can store, exchange, and view information without pre-existing trust. It also protects data through public/private key access and ensures cost efficiency and accountability in sensitive health data transactions.
- It uses bit-string cryptography to secure data integrity without violating HIPAA, consistently limiting real-time use and analysis of health care data.
- The majority of chain nodes confirm transaction validity through consensus.
- Healthcare executives, while giving services, track and update their patient’s health data, including clinical notes, care plans, lab results, diagnosis, and treatment.
2. Enhanced privacy and security
Privacy and security issues have always been a concern in the healthcare industry. A few of the common issues related to privacy and security are:
- Various hacking attacks
- Data integrity and accessibility
- Confidentiality of PHI and PII
- Compliance with HIPAA regulations
Each blockchain network participant has one pair of private and public keys, acting as a visible identifier. The key pair is cryptographically linked, so the identification process involves a few permission layers. For a hacker to crack the information, he needs to crack each user’s private key in the care network. Also, blockchain in healthcare offers frictionless connectivity due to its API-oriented nature.
HIE Challenges and Solutions with Blockchain
Let’s look at some challenges along with the solutions that blockchain brings to the HIE systems:
Challenge 1: A secure healthcare network involves a centralized database to act as an intermediary to share data and keep records
Solution: Blockchain removes the need for an intermediary as all participants have access to a distributed ledger for conducting secured transactions or information exchange.
Challenge 2: Multiple patient identifiers synchronization gives rise to master patient index challenges
Solution: The distributed blockchain framework enables the use of private and public digital identifiers using cryptography.
Challenge 3: High cost per transaction with low volume channels minimize business to care for centralized systems
Solution: Disintermediation reduces the overall per-transaction cost factor making the system more efficient.
Challenge 4: Inconsistency in protocols averts getting the accurate patient data
Solution: Smart contracts build consistency and regulations-based methods with consent to retrieve patient information.
A blockchain-powered health information exchange unlocks the actual value of interoperability. It offers secure network infrastructure, the verifiable identity of each participant, and a consistent representation of authorization to access EHI (Electronic Health Information). Blockchain development services in healthcare bring a revolution as it is the right technology to revamp the traditional healthcare architecture of central database and the Continuity of Care Document (CCD). In the future, blockchain in healthcare will boom to make the PHI journey secure, traceable, and manageable. It ensures trusted views of patient’s health, generation of new insights, and moving forward toward value-based care.
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