Even if you’re aren’t a technological expert, you’ve heard of Blockchain, the hot topic of technology in 2018. Blockchain is an open system for exchanging information that can be useful in various fields, medicine being is one of them.
What is Blockchain?
Blockchain is a decentralized system where transactions are stored in blocks of information. Once the information is registered, it cannot be modified. These blocks are encrypted using cryptographic hash functions and stored together in the form of blockchains. Blockchain is like a digital ledger that shows the data transfers and the uploaded data with exact date and time. Blockchain is the kind of digital auditor you can’t fool.
An example could help to understand how it works. User A wants to send a document to user B, so this transaction is represented as a block. That block is transmitted to thousands of servers that certify that the transaction is valid. At that point, the block is added to the string and recorded so that it is unmodifiable. User B then receives the document from user A.
Fingerprint – Key security
Each block has 3 parts: First, the information to be transmitted, second, the fingerprint of the block, and third, the fingerprint of the previous block. The block’s own fingerprint is a unique and unmodifiable alpha-numeric cipher that identifies the content. This fingerprint can detect an attempt to edit the block. If this fingerprint changes, it indicates that the block is no longer the original.
The previous block’s fingerprint is what generates the block structure and makes the procedure secure. The first block is called “Genesis” and doesn’t have a fingerprint, being an original, but the other blocks do. Any attempt to modify any of the fingerprints would change the previous fingerprint and would modify the entire chain invalidating it.
To make sure that this procedure cannot adulterate the fingerprints of the chains, blockchain has a “proof of work”. This is based on delaying the creation of the new block. Before creating a new block, the network members would audit the entire chain of original blocks. If it detects a modification, the block is not formed.
Blockchain does not use a single server. The users themselves ensure the security of the blockchain through their servers. These servers are called nodes and they are in charge of verifying each one of the blocks created to keep the information unalterable. Hence there has to be a consensus among them.
Okay… you are convinced by the idea of joining the latest technological revolution, how do you do it? It’s very simple, you have to find a platform that offers blockchain, download it, and pay for the service you use.
Blockchain in Medicine
This technology can be used for many things like bank transactions without intermediaries, certification of copyright in literary works, streamlining of bureaucracy, elections, and in medicine. Can you imagine a world where hospitals could share data with their patients no matter where they are? With a system like Blockchain, relevant medical information could be exchanged from any corner of the world. A patient’s allergies, history, clinical analysis, treatments, all their medical information would be available to his doctor with a single click.
Blockchain drives health and technology to unite and exchange reports with doctors and respective patients. The confidentiality of the medical record will be assured, something that is now managed in a rudimentary way. Blockchain is applicable to the patient’s history and it will also allow the transfer of available data to wearable devices with total security.
The healthcare industry is gradually changing and data protection laws are becoming stricter. Proof of this is the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which regulates the transfer of sensitive data with special attention. These policies are intended to safeguard patient care but many healthcare organizations still are sceptical about exchanging information via blockchain.
Personalized Medicine Gains Strength
MedLab Media Group (MMG) is a Spanish start-up offering technological solutions to the physicians of the future. MMG has integrated Blockchain into its products, to offer transparency and security, to doctors, in any corner of the world. With this technology, doctors and patients verify health-related data using digital identities that are impossible to manipulate.
“Blockchain will revolutionize the healthcare sector and will be a turning point in the exchange of information. Communications between doctor and patient will be safe, easy and direct. Blockchain changes everything,” explained Oleg Vorontsov, CEO of MedLab Media Group.
Blockchain is decentralized, the information exchanged is impossible to modify and there is anonymity between all the users involved. Transactions are linked to a person, but their identity is never revealed. This relationship of trust makes it unnecessary for a third party to verify the transaction.
But how would Blockchain work in the health sector? A doctor could carry out a list of records with all the patient’s health data. The first step is to create a medical record, then a digital signature is generated ensuring the authenticity of the document, and lastly, the record is encrypted. At all times, the patient can know who has access to their data and if it is modified at any given time.
Precision in Medicine
This technology offers advantages for research by allowing personalized patient data to be tracked in a timely manner. Medicine can be more accurate and would have large amounts of valid data for studies when collecting patients’ data.
“Blockchain has come to revolutionize the business world. Since the beginning of the second millennium, the lack of confidence in transaction systems has led to the emergence of transaction security systems. With these new technologies, we finally have the possibility to create immutable and permanent records”, Daniel Gimeno, web architect at MedLab Media Group.
Blockchain offers the possibility of sharing health data and involving different agents related. All of them are united by the same interest: to store and share sensitive information to prevent diseases, diagnose and treat them, investigate them and make medicine a single data science.
As Gimeno explained, any process that requires recording sensitive information and certifying its immutability could use blockchain. From there, the possibilities are very wide in the field of healthcare. Gimeno said, the way to safeguard medical records, the possibility of prescribing drugs from one end of the world to the other, without intermediaries, are the first services of this technology. “Document signatures, drug patents, copyrights, anything that can be registered and stored in a document with a guarantee has a common denominator and that is, blockchain”, he concluded.
“The main property of the distribution and replication of information through thousands of nodes around the world makes it virtually impossible to alter the information. The financial world was the first to rely on Blockchain to create the cryptocurrencies, but Blockchain is more than that,” according to Daniel Gimeno.
Currently, the technological means available cannot break the algorithms that guarantee the authenticity of the data in blockchain. There are several unknown factors, like quantum computers, that will decide the future of blockchain and it’s indestructibility.