Health care advocates blockchain use despite challenges

The healthcare industry in the United States has shown great interest in blockchain technology, especially after the recent cyber attacks on medical research facilities working on COVID-19 vaccines.

According to the DevPro Journal, health officials believe that the adoption of blockchain technology can provide data security against cybercriminals and hackers because it does not contain a central point of failure. Users can only access data using a very complex password, which makes ransomware and similar attacks null and void.

A group of ransomware auctions off information from a US healthcare facility.
What reinforces the idea of applying blockchain technology to healthcare institutions is that attacks have been repeated over the last two years. In 2018, healthcare institutions were the target of more than one cyber attack, resulting in the penetration of more than 15 million patient records in 503 violations. DevPro magazine noted that the number of violations increased by 60% in 2019.

Healthcare industry players believe that blockchain can provide a measure of data protection against hacker attacks. It will also offer many other advantages, such as providing secure and complete access to a patient’s global medical records. Patients can also control access to their data.

But while blockchain can help the industry, there are still many challenges to its adoption.

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Challenges that hinder the adoption of blockchain technology in the health sector
The first of these challenges is that all entities involved in patient care and medical research must adopt this new model of collaborative information exchange with new read/write standards and the distributed platforms and systems needed to support this new blockchain technology.

The second challenge is the difficulty of processing large amounts of data in a single transaction, such as an MRI, CT scan, or even a genome sequence.

The third challenge is that Bitcoin Trader does not delete deleted or modified records; instead, additional blocks are added to the chain to represent these deletions and modifications. This process results in the need for increased storage, which poses a great financial and technical challenge.

How can blockchain improve the health system?

But even with these challenges, the main actors in health have bet on technology. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was one of the first to realize the potential of blockchain technology in the healthcare sector. In 2017, the FDA partnered with IBM Watson to develop a secure exchange of medical record data using blockchain.

Mount Sinai was not far off either. In 2018, it opened a Blockchain Biomedical Research Center to evaluate its own medical research programs and partnerships, and eMQT used blockchain to study the results of its DNA sequencing of thousands of Africans with sickle cell anemia.