Blockchain technology could revolutionize the way medical histories are stored and recorded, providing physicians with fast and more comprehensive access to patients’ medical info in times of crisis. However, the introduction of blockchain into the industry is not without dangers, as the preservation of medical privacy from outsiders and industry insiders alike should be a paramount concern
Using blockchain in the healthcare industry offers up a major pro in that an entire person’s medical history could be stored on the blockchain and made immediately accessible to physicians during a crisis. The primary con is that the availability of people’s private medical information to industry professionals could encourage insider breaches of privacy, which is already on the rise.
Pro: Blockchain could make medical records more accessible to physicians during an emergency
Our medical histories, the record of which could potentially hold vital and lifesaving information in an accident, are complex items that are often scattered across the offices of different healthcare providers and organizations, sometimes based in different jurisdictions.
The majority of your medical history may be held in an organized file by your family doctor; however, if you have relocated, changed doctors’ offices, or visited healthcare specialists throughout your life, that means that essential pieces may be dispersed and not immediately accessible in a time of need. Some of your most recent info might even be stored away in a device tracking your health.
Disorganized or inefficient record keeping is not unique to the healthcare industry. For that reason, blockchain technology is being adopted in more and more sectors to expedite transaction times and to keep more reliable and secure records of information. Distributed ledger technology can provide a decentralized and transparent record of transactions in a network.
The blockchain has become a highly discussed but also controversial item in the healthcare field. Patients’ medical histories could be committed to a ledger, which would make a world of difference for physicians who are looking for a patient’s comprehensive medical history in real time, potentially under pressure.
Con: Easy access to medical records could encourage insider privacy breaches
Despite the advantages that blockchain technology could bring to recordkeeping in the healthcare sector, the idea is controversial because of the fine line between appropriate and inappropriate access to medical histories. In the United States, breaches of privacy in healthcare are taking place at a frightening rate. While blockchain technology should normally serve to bolster data security, 40% of healthcare breaches apparently come from inside actors. That means that higher levels of accessibility generated by blockchain technology could encourage higher rates of inside privacy breaches.
On the other hand, when a physician’s knowledge of a patient’s medication could genuinely be a matter of life and death, one would hope that physician had easy access to a comprehensive version of the patient’s medical history.
The solution lies in extreme caution and care when developing the blockchain technology to be used and when delegating access to professionals and patients. Blockchain technology has a promising future in the industry, but it should not be introduced immediately on a broad sweeping basis across organizations and providers. It should be gradually brought in with consultations from healthcare officials, providers, NGOs, and with the promise of responsible regulation.