- How could HEALTH SERVICES harness blockchain
Just now·6 min read
Written by @ColorReader, Edited by @RealScrout
The healthcare sector is a vital part of a country’s infrastructure; thus, capability and improving accessibility can benefit both the public and industry. Blockchain can better privacy, information sharing, and security.
Why the blockchain?
If you are new to the world of cryptocurrency, it’s recommended to read up on the basics of a blockchain before continuing further. Doing so will likely make it easier to understand the intrinsic benefits proper utilisation can bring. We have previously linked this article from Investopedia and given a simple overview in our Medium regarding blockchain’s influence in the Education sector .
What system is currently in use?
Traditional information storage through centralised databases is the current industry standard and has numerous advantages compared to past solutions. As with everything, however, it is not without its flaws. The handling of health data can be further built upon, thanks to the unique benefits blockchain brings to the table.
The term “health data” is a broad one; it can encompass anything from medical records and prescriptions, to surgical procedures and mental health conditions. All this information is currently localised entirely within isolated, local databases  and is shared with other institutions only when requested.
Fraud, forgery and competition
centralised databases create a small gap in information available among doctors and practitioners, opening the door to exploitation. As a result, prescription fraud becomes more accessible for potential abusers . With the current system, the patient is responsible for informing a doctor at a different office of their medicinal needs and active medications. Individuals can exploit this vulnerability.
Besides the mentioned, frequently abused blind spot, forgery of prescriptions is also an unfortunate reality. A diagnosis can also be forged, albeit with difficulty, which can be abused in different environments, such as the workplace or at school. In addition to the resource and time loss of professional practitioners, the monetary loss of the illegally obtained medication can be significant.
Sharing of new, fresh information is another front with its own unfortunate realities. In truth, frequent sharing has a whole host of benefits for everyone and has been a focus since the digital age began . Academics have more data to work with, hospitals can adequately diagnose and devise effective treatment, and the patient has a higher probability of receiving a more tailored plan . Competition in terms of reputation and innovation, however, can slow things down. Tim Hulsen worded it well in his article;
“However, hospitals and academia often are reluctant to share their data with other parties, even though the patient is actually the owner of his/her own health data. Academic hospitals usually invest a lot of time in setting up clinical trials and collecting data, and want to be the first ones to publish papers on this data. There are some publicly available datasets, but these are usually only shared after study (and publication) completion, which means a severe delay of months or even years before others can analyse the data.” 
Studies, clinical trials and tests are meticulous and are often labour intensive as a result. Publicly available data sources can be dated and might result in inaccurate conclusions if incorrectly used in more extensive studies. The lack of patient authority can be viewed as a glaring weakness in this situation, seeing how the office/hospital in question can withhold their data’s utilisation.
How can blockchain help?
Sharing, Verification and Incentivisation
The main feature of blockchain as a ledger is information integrity through mass verification. Thanks to several alternative Layer 1 solutions, along with Ethereum sidechains, transactions no longer need to be expensive, slow and cumbersome.
Smart contract functionality adds complexity previously unimaginable; trustless, secure, and quick. With these contracts serving as the back-end, interactions become easier for the average patient, seeing how they can grant or revoke their consent to data sharing. Doctors and administrations at different offices may share a collective database with no need for expensive local storage and still appropriately credit the correct institution for a particular study or new data.
Due to a blockchain’s opportunity for decentralisation, health data can be independently verified on-chain using oracles. A doctor at their office may only need to consult on-chain information to see if the new patient has recently received their medication or not. This information would be impossible to forge and insurmountably difficult to change on-chain.
Where are we right now?
As of the time of writing, different projects are cornering their respective niches. Medicalchain is an example, which attempts to tackle the storage and information exchange issues mentioned in this Medium . Dentacoin  focuses more on incentives and reducing costs for orthodontists, while Lympo  solely attempts motivation of good health through rewards.
Some of these projects have large partnerships and have been endorsed by Samsung’s crypto wallet , highlighting how this field is slowly garnering much-needed interest. Anyone familiar with DeFi knows how much power there is in claiming complete control of one’s finance. Who is to say this isn’t the case with health data?
A Slow Revolution?
With all the gadgets everyday life has introduced, it is better to ask what’s not being tracked rather than what is. Smartphones, smartwatches and even smart shoes are adding to the ever-expanding world of IoT. Many of these products include agreements, where the user waives off their right to their data. All this information is then sold off and monetised, with targeted ads and spooky interactions for uses.
Once DeFi gains more traction, we will see more developers setting their eyes on innovations in the health industry. A user selling their heart rate information or a global health blockchain used by various countries seems slightly far fetched today, but it might be closer than we think.
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 Hulsen, T. (2020). Sharing Is Caring — Data Sharing Initiatives in Healthcare. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, [online] 17(9), p.3046. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7246891/ [Accessed 1 May 2021].
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 Lympo (2019). Lympo now allows withdrawals to Samsung Blockchain Wallet. [online] Medium. Available at: https://medium.com/lympo-io/lympo-now-allows-withdrawals-to-samsung-blockchain-wallet-d84a39e18f87 [Accessed 1 May 2021].
- Date of publication:
- Tue, 05/04/2021 - 05:02
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