Healthcare data management is a critical aspect of the healthcare industry. This is because it involves the collection, storage, and sharing of sensitive patient information.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a United States federal law that regulates the use and disclosure of protected health information (PHI) by covered entities. These entities include healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses. HIPAA sets strict standards for the privacy and security of PHI and imposes significant penalties for non-compliance.
Recently, blockchain technology has become a promising solution for healthcare data management. It offers a secure and decentralized way to store and share health information. However, blockchain adoption in healthcare raises significant privacy and security concerns. And among the most pressing concerns is HIPAA compliance.
How Can Blockchain in Healthcare Be HIPAA-Compliant?
The use of blockchain technology in healthcare data management can potentially violate HIPAA. This can happen if it does not comply with its requirements for the privacy and security of PHI. For example, if a blockchain-based system for managing healthcare data does not include appropriate controls to limit access to PHI only to authorized parties, it may violate HIPAA.
HIPAA sets strict standards for the privacy and security of PHI, including requirements for access controls, encryption, and other security measures. A blockchain-based system for managing healthcare data must incorporate these standards to ensure HIPAA compliance.
Encryption is one of the key security measures that will ensure HIPAA compliance when using blockchain technology in healthcare data management. Encryption involves converting data into codes that can only be deciphered or read with a specific key.
This ensures that only authorized parties with the key can access the data. Blockchain technology can be used to encrypt PHI, ensuring it is protected from unauthorized access and disclosure.
Access controls are another critical security measure that can ensure HIPAA compliance when using blockchain technology in healthcare data management. Access controls involve restricting access to PHI only to authorized parties.
Developers can leverage blockchain technology to create access controls that give access to authorized parties. For example, a blockchain-based system for managing healthcare data can be designed to allow specifically authorized healthcare providers to access a database.
Benefits of Using Blockchain Technology in Healthcare
Blockchain technology offers several potential benefits for healthcare, including:
Blockchain technology’s decentralized and distributed nature makes it difficult for hackers to compromise data integrity. Hackers managed to get access to Anthem Inc.’s record database in 2015.
This database contained the personal data of about 80 million of Anthem Inc.’s current and former clients and workers. The patient data storage approaches contributed to the database being cyberattack susceptible. Cryptographic algorithms and private keys ensure that data is secure and cannot be altered or deleted without permission.
Blockchain technology enables secure and private patient data sharing among authorized parties. Leveraging blockchain technology in healthcare data management can create a tamper-proof record of all data transfers.
Blockchain technology creates an immutable record of all transfers on the network. It ensures that any changes or modifications to the data are immediately flagged. This makes it easier to track the movement of PHI and ensures that any unauthorized access or disclosure of data can be easily detected.
Furthermore, private or permissioned blockchains ensure the immutability of healthcare data and simultaneously secure it from public access. This means that patients can maintain control over their data, improving trust in the healthcare system.
For example, Patientory offers a blockchain-based, HIPAA-compliant software platform. Through its two decentralized applications, the NEITH enterprise-focused web portal and the Patientory mobile app, Patientory Inc. empowers patients, medical professionals, and healthcare organizations to securely access, store, and exchange health information in real time with the highest levels of security. Patientory Inc. is powered by the PTOYMatrix blockchain network, which facilitates the secure and encrypted storage and exchange of health data.
Healthcare systems often use different data formats and standards, making it difficult to share information across different systems. Blockchain technology can provide a common platform for sharing data that is compatible with multiple systems.
Blockchain technology can streamline many healthcare processes. Some notable examples include patient record-keeping, medical billing, and supply chain management. This can help reduce costs and improve overall efficiency.
By providing a secure, immutable patient data record, blockchain technology can improve trust among patients, providers, and other stakeholders in the healthcare system.
Despite the potential benefits of using blockchain technology in healthcare data management, certain challenges still need addressing.
Setbacks of Using Blockchain Technology in Healthcare
Blockchain technology is complex and requires specialized knowledge to develop, implement, and maintain. It can be challenging for healthcare organizations to find and hire qualified personnel with the necessary skills to manage the blockchain-driven aspects of their organizations.
Blockchain technology needs to be able to scale to meet the needs of healthcare organizations. Healthcare organizations generate vast amounts of data daily. Any blockchain-based system for managing healthcare data needs to handle this volume of data without compromising on performance and security or infringing on privacy.
Integrating blockchain technology with existing healthcare systems can be challenging. Many healthcare systems are outdated and incompatible with blockchain technology, which can require significant investment to modernize the infrastructure.
Implementing blockchain technology can be expensive. This will require significant hardware, software, and personnel investment. The costs of implementing and maintaining blockchain technology may be prohibitive for smaller healthcare organizations or developing countries.
While blockchain technology can improve data security, it can also create privacy concerns. Patient data on the blockchain is immutable. This means it cannot be altered or deleted. However, the transparent nature of blockchain technology can lead to challenges in complying with data protection regulations like HIPAA.
Blockchain technology can improve healthcare data management by offering a secure and decentralized way to store and share health information. However, blockchain adoption in healthcare raises significant privacy and security concerns, with HIPAA compliance being a pressing concern.