Healthcare System Could Benefit from Blockchain Technology Says Philips Research Lead


Healthcare System Could Benefit From Blockchain Technology, and Philips Research Is Encouraging Industry to Take It On

Blockchain technology is finding a way into nearly industry for its ability to organize an honest ledger, and the widespread adoption through companies around the world is proving its value. Still, there’s not been a product established that can help the ongoing problem with security and coherence within the healthcare industry with their collected data. However, Philips Research has put together a team that is working to encourage both healthcare providers and hospitals to use blockchain technology in their records.

The healthcare industry is riddled with issues that keep consumers from getting the best service possible to treat whatever they come in with. To even keep a full record for one patient, there are often calls to multiple doctors’ offices and hospitals, and the ability to even collect all of the information will depend on if the patient remembers everywhere that they’ve received care. However, the concept of just getting records is just one problem. If the user manages to collect all necessary information for their treatment, they are still at risk of a data breach, having their medical details monetized, and other illegal uses of the details.

A perfect example of this risk happened at the Orthopedic Center in Orlando during the summertime, when 19,000 patients had their private files exposed. The cause of the exposure had to do with a software update that was improperly configured for the database, leaking details of each patient’s file on the internet.

Nuance, a healthcare company, had a similar situation happen to them when their system was breached. Instead of the breach causing information to be leaked online, it allowed a single third party to gain access to 45,000 patient records that were stored on a platform for their medical transcription work. Unlike the Orthopedic Center, this breach was so substantial that the FBI, DOJ, and SEC got involved in December 2017, and it released information that was personal to doctors’ appointment details, care plan, and treatments.

The lead researcher for Philips Research, Mark Hennessy, recently talked about the way that blockchain could improve the operations and security of healthcare services during an interview. He commented about his company’s view of the blockchain as a “verifiable data exchange.” With the use of the blockchain, there’s the unique benefit of having a complete trail of any access to the data and how it is used. Hennessey commented,

“This is what we call ‘verifiable data exchange’ because you’ve got the actual audit trail of the request and the fulfillment of the request for data recorded.”

One of the issues with bringing in blockchain, however, is the issue of trust that hospitals and providers have in the current system. Hennessy added,

“A lot of it comes down to trust and transparency. While you can trust a centralized server for storing the logs of each exchange, what we’re exploring is whether we can enhance that trust by decentralizing the storage of the logs between all the participants in a network.”

Though the concept has been met with skepticism in the industry, one of the advantages that blockchain technology holds is that it could help secure data that would otherwise be compromised. Hennessy said,

“If you ever enter a situation where there might be a dispute, it’s possible for each of the stakeholders to have an independent-but-coordinated set of logs that will tell them what has happened in reality rather than trusting a third party or one of those stakeholders to store the logs in a tamper-resistant way.”

There will be a lot of startup companies up against Philips that want to work on their own healthcare product for the industry. However, there will be a lot of warming up to do before the healthcare industry is at a place where they trust blockchain technology over their current system. Hopefully, as blockchain matures and gains a greater following, healthcare will become more willing to see what it offers.

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