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Healthcare and Blockchain Technology

Blockchain Technology refers to storing and distributing data through a distributed database. With Blockchain the database is not located at a single location. It is identically spread throughout the network of systems connected in this loop. Information is hosted up on hundreds of systems and it is accessible to anyone, creating a distributed ledger. In simpler words that data existing on a Blockchain gets verified with other systems connected in the loop and it would require huge amount of computation and work to change a data entry in all of the nodes connected in that Blockchain. The data saved on a Blockchain cannot be controlled by a solitary unit, since identical data is stored in the form of information blocks, it cannot have a single point of failure. All of this ensures data integrity between the parties which share the information. It is contrary to centralized and decentralized networks, Blockchain is referred as a distributed network. The storing, viewing and sharing of information can occur without the pre-existing trust between participants in network. Any change or interaction in the Blockchain is known by all the participants, audit trail of the interactions is recorded in an immutable manner.

Block chain works with a beautiful cryptographic system. There is a set of public and a secret private key given out to each participant. As there is a limited access to everyone, one needs their private key to unlock the information that is appropriate for them to access in that particular blockchain. There are few very important things that need to keep in mind before going for the implementation of blockchain technology in one’s network. Blockchain technology is best suited when there are multiple transactions of changes in formation made by multiple parties; the transactions made need to be valid and parties involve need to trust those transactions;.

In healthcare, blockchain can help in combining finance, payment and team based health care. The cryptographic key access and proof work provided by blockchain technology creates a level of integrity that is essential for healthcare departments. By using this method in healthcare it can enable the access (no alteration) of patients’ non identifiable information. Automation and clearness of the transaction logs makes it efficient to use. In health care industry it is very important to hold correct record of a patient. 

Blockchain is not just restricted to smart contracts, like the scenario mentioned above, to ease out the patients,  blockchain can help with pharmaceuticals too. It can help in traceability of a drug, starting from the manufacturers. The manufacture that produces the drug marks it with a unique code (hash) and logs it into the blockchain and sends off the product to the wholesaler. The wholesaler verifies the data entry made by the manufacturer by verifying the hash. The drug is passed on to pharmacists. The pharmacist verifies the whole transaction using hash and validates the drugs origin and logs its transaction with wholesaler into the blockchain and then the drug gets collected by the patient which in turn also logs the transaction into the blockchain completing an end to end data chain. The secure drug and patient information makes it easier to tackle with fake drugs available over the counter and drug abuse.  

Healthcare is being derived towards blockchain technology because there is very limited access to health records, and the access that is provided is not secure. When you involve a third party the whole concept of security shatters. Blockchain provides consistent rules and permissions in accessing the data. There is full privacy and confidentiality maintained through this system with the use of cryptographic key access which limits the access to those who are authorized to access EHR (Electronic Health Record). It reduces chances of insurance and or identity fraud or abuse. This can help health care institutes to provide value based care to the users and ease of use to the administration.

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