As technology continues to advance, healthcare data security is becoming a great paradox where data breaches are quite commonplace. Yet one rising star, blockchain technology, is promising a solution to cybersecurity. For example, HeathHeart is offering a blockchain solution for securing electronic health records, or EHRs. Though change will most likely begin among IT departments, the entire healthcare organization will eventually need to adjust to blockchain technology applications. This includes advanced practice nurses.
To learn more, check out the infographic below created by the Duquesne University School of Nursing.
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Sounding the Alarm
One in four data breaches occur in the healthcare industry. This not only affects millions of Americans, but it also costs $363 per record. These breaches have been predicted to affect one in thirteen patients between 2015 and 2019.
Major Healthcare Cyber Hacks in 2017
A cyberattack against the Arkansas Oral Facial Surgery Center affected 128,000 patients. An attack on St. Mark’s Surgery Center’s patient data affected 33,877 more. The Mid-Michigan Physicians Imaging Center was the victim of a cyberattack that left the records of 106,000 patients compromised. Indiana Medicaid was also hit by massive cyberattack that exposed the records of 1.1 million patients.
What Hackers Do with the Data
Once the data has been intercepted, hackers can sell patient files on the black market for as much as $20 a pop. They can also use the hacked info to create fake IDs, which could lead to insurance fraud or the purchasing of drugs and medical equipment that could be resold. Additionally, hackers can use the data as leverage in ransomware.
Healthcare data sells for a price 10 to 20 times more than a stolen Mastercard account. The reason is that unlike banking information, healthcare data stays correct for a lifetime.
Blockchain technology is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions permanently, efficiently, and in a verifiable manner. The tech uses “smart contracts” that are stored in transparent shared databases. These contracts are embedded in digital code that can’t be changed, tampered with, or deleted. With blockchain technology, transactions between individuals, organizations, machines, and algorithms would be frictionless, quicker, and less expensive.
Blockchain Revolution and Improving Industries
IBM is exploring the potential of blockchain technology in conjunction with the supply chain. Their goal is to possibly use the tech to improve the traceability of food, which would make the supply chain safer. Meanwhile, Ethereum is using the tech to impact financial services by providing increased privacy using blockchain “smart contracts.”
Other industries could potentially benefit from blockchain tech. The travel industry could use it for biometric verification. The security industry could implement it to store personal records. Retail stores could also use utilize it to access brand SKUs. Finally, the tech could be helpful in creating tamper-proof ledgers that could reduce voter fraud.
The speed of which the technology is adopted depends on its novelty factor and how much coordination is required for the system to properly work. Its use is projected to increase: in 2017, 15% of healthcare applications had adopted blockchain technology for commercial deployment; this percentage is predicted to jump to 55% by 2025.
A Hopeful Solution for Healthcare
An electronic health record, or EHR, contains the patient’s name, date of birth, and social security number. It also contains the names of the patient’s employers, dependents, and more. Considering the increasing number of healthcare data breaches, blockchain technology that enables patient-mediated health data exchange provides a potential security solution opportunity.
Health Data Exchange
With blockchain, a ledger will store health data but not identification. Users will have an address that’s secured with keys in their wallet. This patient-mediated health data exchange network will improve the efficiency of health data flow across the healthcare system, and it can allow patients to see who is accessing their data and for what purpose.
Ethereum’s open source platform allows for a standardized foundational structure and options to customize their user interface. Ideally, different tech systems and software applications will be able to communicate, share, and retrieve data with the EHR while retaining interoperability through customization. This system uses Healthheart tokens (HHT) to execute functions in a smart contract. These functions would be encrypted and would be linked to a component that creates an audit trail within the blockchain. It would also create a connection between the consumer and the care provider whenever their relationship is modified.
Shifting Responsibilities of Advanced Practice Nurses
Blockchain technology – specifically out-of-hospital or OOH blockchains, will affect real-time population health data analysis and alerts. It will also affect the tracking of drug development, remote device monitoring, and telemedicine. Additionally, the tech will affect doctor and nurse credentialing as well as home health visit data sharing.
Though implementation blockchain technology in a healthcare organization may be the responsibility of IT departments, advanced practice nurses will need to adjust their responsibilities. They’ll need to keep abreast of the latest technology developments, be prepared to educate patients on OOH blockchain application usage, and collaborate with IT professionals and other staffers regarding new blockchain application opportunities.
It may be several years before blockchain technology is fully accepted and integrated into the healthcare system. As IT departments and senior leaders consider the possibilities, advanced practice nurses must do their part to stay cognizant of blockchain technology advancements, and embrace changes and shifts in their daily responsibilities, whether this means educating patients about blockchain applications, monitoring data from remote devices via OOH blockchain applications, or adjusting to the ways health data is shared.