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EMRs with blockchain

We summarise a recent paper, published as preprint in arxiv, that proposed a blockchain based medical data sharing solution.

Data

With ongoing advancements in technology, the amount of electronic data being generated by medical institutions is growing. Although medical data is highly personal, it is not currently controlled by the patients themselves. However, sharing such data requires a secure platform with high security and strict access restrictions. Unfortunately, the lack of industry wide standards for sharing medical data has given rise to data silos. This has led to the necessity for a widely accessible solution which can provide interoperability in a heterogenous environment but also provide the security and privacy demands that medical records require.

Blockchain technology has been poised as a potential solution for the medical industry. All transactions on the blockchain network are written to a cryptographically secure immutable ledger. This technology enables data sovereignty, embedding data ownership as a key characteristic. This would enable users to manager their own data.

A blockchain data sharing system

In this paper, the authors proposed a data sharing system for electronic health record (EHR) sharing using the Hyperledger Fabric platform (private permissioned blockchain solution). In this system, users would have to register themselves to an authority in the blockchain network to access it.  Hyperledger Fabric uses channels to create a private communication medium between two or more entities on the blockchain network. This specifically ensures that data shared between participants within this channel cannot be accessed by others within the network. The proposed system also incorporates the usage of interplanetary file system (IPFS) for data storage. IPFS is a powerful permanent data storage solution that is accessible across heterogenous systems.

The team believe that combining IPFS with blockchain technology presents a compelling solution to creating an immutable distributed digital solution for heterogenous systems. The system aims to give patients control of their own medical data and make health data accessible across the globe while also ensuring the privacy and integrity of the data stored. Access to all previous medical records in a single location can empower healthcare professionals with the data needed for the effective diagnosis and treatment of patients. Pharma companies, for example, can also request access which can then be used to analyse and ultimately create targeted medicines.

Image credit: By iuriimotov – www.freepik.com

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