Healthcare is one of the industries that generate terabytes of data each day. Hospitals and healthcare services providers are investing thousands of dollars every year to manage patient information and other data. Even after all these, there is a disconnect between one healthcare provider and another. When a patient decides to switch his healthcare provider due to any reason, the patient’s medical records have to be either migrated manually from the previous hospital/ healthcare center or the patient will be forced to undergo a plethora of diagnostic tests to evaluate his or her medical condition.
Most of the electronic medical records are currently maintained on-site on physical servers or on cloud by the healthcare provider, and the access is currently limited only to their hospital network. Centralization of healthcare data makes it more vulnerable to security breaches where hackers can easily break into the system and gain unauthorized access to any patient’s medical history and information. This data in the wrong hands can be very dangerous. Even from the patients’ perspective, they do not have complete access to their own medical data stored in their hospital’s database.
Even though the benefits of creating and maintaining electronic medical records of patients has been established (it is found that maintaining records considerably increases the quality of care provided to patients) the exorbitant cost of managing and maintaining the system has put many hospitals off from implementing it.
Blockchain technology, the lifeline of Bitcoin network has the potential to address these concerns regarding access, security, scalability and privacy of electronic medical records. A centralized platform that decentralizes healthcare data is not too far. Conceptually, patient’s data can be stored on the bitcoin blockchain or similar technology creating a multisig address for each patient’s records. The patient can be provided with a private key and a multi-sig address for his data. In addition, each healthcare provider using this record keeping system can be assigned a universal signature. Using the same multisig principle used by bitcoin wallets, a patient can choose to grant access to any healthcare provider of his choice by using his signature along with that of the hospital. This way, the patients will have full access to their own data and they can choose the healthcare provider they would like to share it with. It will also save hospitals from the huge costs associated with setting up and maintaining patients’ electronic records.