What is Blockchain?
Blockchain is an immutable ledger that logs data entries in a decentralized manner. The technology was introduced in 2008 in Bitcoin, a popular cryptocurrency. Since then, this technology has seen its massive use in all global industries, especially in data-driven enterprises.
Like any other industry today, the healthcare sector and medical device manufacturing industry also rely largely upon data availability, and therefore, they can also incorporate blockchain technology.
Types of Blockchain
There are mainly three types of blockchain i.e.
- Public (permission-less)
- Consortium (public permission)
Anyone can view the data in the public blockchain. Furthermore, anyone can join a public blockchain, and these people can contribute to consensus (in theory) and changes to the core software of the blockchain.
Examples of public blockchain are Bitcoin and Ethereum, two of the world’s largest cryptocurrencies.
A consortium blockchain is a partially centralized blockchain network. It allows only several entities to gain access to viewing and participating in the consensus protocol.
In a private blockchain, although the network is distributed, it is also centralized. In this type of blockchain, a central authority manages the participation of all the entities in the network.
Characteristics of Blockchain
Blockchain technology has some peculiar characteristics, such as
This is the most prominent feature of blockchain technology. There is not any central authority that can control the contents to be added to the blockchain. Instead, a peer-to-peer network using different consensus protocols is used to pass on the new entries.
Because blockchain is a distributed ledger and stored across multiple nodes, it is impossible to delete the entries after getting accepted onto the blockchain.
Blockchain ensures complete (or partial) anonymity of the participating nodes.
Potential and Use of Blockchain in Healthcare and Medical Devices Sector
The healthcare sector and medical device manufacturing industries are amongst the most robust sectors in the world today. There is a significant amount of work that is data-related in both of these sectors. These sectors interact with other industries and educational and research institutions to access the professionals, updated information, test samples, clinical trials, development of a new medical device, etc. Patients’ data is also widely interchanged between these institutions, and this process requires a lot of transparency, integrity, and privacy.
All of these activities, in general, require access control, data integrity, data provenance, and interoperability. Therefore, it is proven that data and maintenance of its integrity are crucial for the healthcare sector to work today.
However, in the current global scenario, this sector (along with the medical device manufacturing industry) face different problems in this regard, such as:
- Increased demand of data from industry and research organizations
- Unauthorized sharing
- Stealing of sensitive patients’ data
- Malpractices within the healthcare system.
To counter these problems, the healthcare and medical device manufacturing sector must find alternative approaches, and considering blockchain technology can be very helpful in this regard.
How can Blockchain Prove to be Helpful in Data Exchanging Solutions for Healthcare and Medical Device Manufacturing Industry?
The extensive exchange of information that occurs in the healthcare sector needs to be regulated with utmost care. As mentioned above, this process requires fool-proof access control, data integrity, data provenance, and interoperability. And these are the four areas where blockchain can prove to be helpful for both the healthcare sector and the medical device manufacturing industry.
Blockchain and Access Control
- Through blockchain, access can be gained to data (e.g., medical images) by requesting and approving data transactions with private and public keys
- Access can also be gained by querying data on the blockchain and retrieving it with FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) URLs
- Hyperledger Fabric Membership service has also been used in issuing enrollment and transaction certificates for access control.
Blockchain and Interoperability
Blockchain can be used as a reliable solution in overcoming interoperability challenges. Using blockchain, interoperability issues have been thoroughly addressed by referencing FHIR resources in some solutions.
Blockchain and Improvement in Data Provenance
- Blockchain can enhance data provenance in supply chains by using trusted IoT devices to execute smart contracts on the blockchain
- Blockchain can also be used in tackling data provenance issues in addressing clinical trials. This can be done by providing a tracking system of data used in trials.
Blockchain and Increasing Data Integrity
- One of the characteristics, i.e., immutability, can be used in maintaining data integrity
- Data integrity can also be enhanced by storing hashed medical data or hash pointer on-chain
- Trusted IoT devices can also be integrated with smart contracts and integration used.
Where is the Health Sector Currently using Blockchain?
Although the concept of using blockchain in the healthcare sector is new, the sector has recognized its importance and has started to use it more frequently. Currently, blockchain-based clinical solutions that are being explored by the healthcare sector include
- EHR (Electronic Health Records)
- PHR (Patient Health Records)
- Clinical trial system.
Besides them, several other domains in the healthcare sector and the medical device manufacturing industry are also being aided by blockchain technology. However, there is a need for more work in these sectors. They include:
- Infectious diseases surveillance system
- Pharma supply chain
- Population health management system
- Picture archiving and communication systems
- Administrative systems
- Automated diagnostic services for patients.
Need Blockchain Solutions for your Industry?
Alysidia is a technology-centered institution striving to empower medical device manufacturing industries and the healthcare sector through technology. We provide state-of-the-art Blockchain solutions which can help your company in supply chain management, communication systems, administrative systems, automated solutions, and maintenance of health records, etc. So reach out to us today and get the most suitable Blockchain solutions for your company.
Bibliography Hasselgeren, A. et al., 2020. Blockchain in healthcare and health sciences—A scoping review. International Journal of Medical Informatics, Volume 134.