In the wake of GDPR and the WannaCry Ransomware Attack, it’s clear that the measures taken to secure patient data must be reviewed. With this, comes the challenge of finding a solution capable of securing confidential information across the NHS and private healthcare sector – could Blockchain offer that sought-after security?
It’s an unusual time for data: we have more rights than ever (thanks to GDPR) and yet we also find ourselves feeling even more protective over our details, for fear that hackers, ransomware or fraudsters will help themselves to our private information.
In the healthcare sector, this is far from an unfounded fear. Following 2017’s WannaCry crisis – which saw the NHS brought to its knees thanks to a combination of malicious ransomware and outdated security systems – the vulnerability of our healthcare system has become startlingly obvious.
As such, the search for a solution has already begun, and unsurprisingly, focus has shifted towards one of the great technological innovations of our time: Blockchain. But how can the cryptocurrency precursor, which gave rise to the likes of Bitcoin, help to keep records safe – and transform healthcare for the better?
The Backbone of Connected Care
If we were to put ourselves in the shoes of our predecessors, to see the world in its current state would be a confusing and puzzling experience. We’re on the cusp of having driverless cars on the road, the entire history of the world is contained within a device in our pocket, we can call upon Alexa or Siri to fulfil personal assistant duties, and it’s easy to contact anybody in the world in real-time.
What lies behind these innovations – and brings them together – however, is the idea of connectivity. The Internet of Things dwells in the background, enabling our smart devices to connect to other technology in our lives to make for a smoother experience in day-to-day. Anybody with even the smallest amount of IoT tech in their life is seeing its transformative power.
With so many benefits for our daily lives, it stands to reason that we can also improve on other areas too, using connected technology. This is where the concept of ‘Connected Care’ comes from.
Much like the devices in your own home, Connected Care is the idea that technology can work together to share information, help you to make better choices, and relieve the pressure felt on the NHS and private healthcare companies by rising rates of illness and technology which is quickly becoming outdated.
Resolving specific issues and unearthing the right technology is key to making Connected Care a reality.
The Strongest Link
Although Blockchain can’t cure the common cold (unfortunately), it can help to relieve some of the pressure piled on the NHS – which is why it’s the key to Connected Care. Thanks to its very nature as a secure, distributed ledger, it’s available to anybody to develop; disruptive start-ups all have the power and social conscience to present Blockchain as a suitable healthcare technology.
Aside from its accessibility, Blockchain’s main appeal comes from how secure data is when it’s part of the chain: no changes can be made to any blocks without the entire chain being re-written, with responsibility shared between all users. This has helped to make Blockchain an early disruptor in the worlds of IoT and banking.
From a healthcare perspective, this could provide the NHS with a means of securing patient records, safeguarding them against any changes or unauthorised peeking. It also means that patients can connect with doctors and other healthcare professionals with more ease and more securely.
A Future of Ones and Zeroes
The connectivity on offer plays perfectly into the idea that the future of healthcare is digital. Talking on the subject, Richard Corbridge (chief digital and information officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust) posited that a “digital health system is the only way that healthcare will still be affordable in five years”, due to the mounting difficulties facing the NHS.
It’s reassuring to hear, then, that trials are already underway by disruptive startups such as Medicalchain, with a view to proving Blockchain’s usefulness in the medical world. Medicalchain will allow doctors and patients to have digital appointments, with confidentially ensured, as well as allowing for appointments to be paid for using cryptocurrency, and much-coveted record security guarantees.
If Medicalchain’s trials are a success – and if other disruptors follow suite – Blockchain could be used to solve the age-old puzzle of piecing together patient records across numerous providers, securing them, and ensuring that doctors and patients can better communicate – the very essence of Connected Care.
The Strongest Link
Of course, trials and innovations are currently focused around private healthcare providers, with the NHS trailing behind thanks to budget cuts and a lack of support. If we’re to more widely benefit from Blockchain in the healthcare sector, the NHS needs to be provided with the technological backbone required to host technologies such as Blockchain.
What’s more, disruptors also need to shift their attention to the health service to give it a fighting chance of adopting Blockchain and other technologies. We can be hopeful, however: with the Blockchain trials taking place in private practices, the potential financial damage is limited, and the NHS can potentially take Blockchain on board once it’s been refined and proven to work.
Doing so – and investing in creating the much-discussed digital care of the future – could be the key to transforming the UK’s healthcare sector and securing it as a world-leader. Merely considering the idea is just the first block in a much longer chain – one which could secure the NHS for decades to come.
Kaleida is a bespoke software development house based in Manchester. Our team are fascinated by the latest in technological developments – for more tech news and insights, be sure to visit the Kaleida blog. Or, to find out about how we can help your business to thrive, be sure to get in touch.