In today’s healthcare landscape, organizations are increasingly recognizing the importance of advanced data management solutions. The need to effectively manage, govern, exchange, and analyze both internal and external datasets has become vital. Moreover, ensuring adequate data protection has emerged as a major concern, particularly in light of the rising number of data breaches in the healthcare sector. According to Atlas VPN, a staggering 87 million patients in the United States were affected by data breaches in 2023, more than double the previous year’s figure of 37 million. In response to these challenges, organizations are turning to blockchain technology as a potential solution to enhance data management systems.
Amber Hartley, the Chief Strategy Officer at BurstIQ, a blockchain-based platform-as-a-service, highlighted the inherent limitations of traditional data management methods in the healthcare industry. She explained that these methods perpetuate data silos, impeding the seamless connection of information. Traditional data management systems are primarily designed for internal data and fail to account for the multitude of organizations, vendors, partners, applications, and individuals involved in the complex web of healthcare data ecosystems.
To address these concerns, BurstIQ has developed a groundbreaking concept called “smart data” by combining blockchain technology with machine learning and privacy-enhanced technology. Smart data incorporates privacy, permissions, history, context, and trust directly into generated data across various sectors. In stark contrast to traditional data management, where data privacy is confined to the security of the database, smart data embeds privacy and security within the data itself.
BurstIQ’s data management system, LifeGraph, serves as the repository for smart data and is currently utilized by numerous healthcare organizations. For instance, the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, responsible for managing Medicaid data for 1.5 million Coloradans, incorporates LifeGraph within their Medicaid Enterprise Solutions Integration platform. This integration enables the agency to ensure data quality, unification, governance, and security across multiple vendors, sub-systems, and partners.
By leveraging blockchain technology, Hartley emphasized the numerous efficiencies that can be achieved, including data encryption, self-sovereign identity, and privacy-enhanced technology. Blockchain provides patients with control over their identity and data, enabling them to grant access selectively. Additionally, blockchain facilitates secure multi-party computation, allowing parties to jointly analyze data without revealing their inputs.
Another noteworthy player in the field of data management, Partisia Blockchain, specializes in advanced multi-party computation (MPC) for public blockchain networks. Kurt Nielsen, President of the Board at Partisia Blockchain, emphasized that MPC enables trust in a trustless system. Partisia is currently developing a data management solution incorporating MPC and private patient healthcare data in collaboration with Verida, a pioneer of the self-sovereign database network.
Nielsen explained that Verida Network offers users secure and private database infrastructure, ensuring they own and control their private data. This infrastructure enables patients to claim their healthcare or fitness activity tracking data from multiple third-party systems using the Verida Wallet. Subsequently, healthcare research organizations can leverage this data by building applications that request and process verified, anonymous healthcare data for research purposes. The data is then submitted to a privacy-preserving smart contract on the Partisia blockchain, generating valuable research output obtained with consent, anonymity, and full data privacy.
Partisia and Verida have been actively collaborating with healthcare organizations to facilitate secure data analysis while preserving patient privacy in compliance with regulations. Nielsen highlighted features like Jurisdiction Management that support GDPR compliance and assured users of the reliability and security of this innovative approach to sharing patient data.
While blockchain technology holds immense potential for healthcare data management, significant challenges may impede its widespread adoption. Privacy concerns have emerged as a major obstacle, as traditional blockchain networks emphasize transparency, which may not align with the sensitive nature of healthcare data. To mitigate this, Hartley proposed leveraging blockchain as part of a broader service stack, where privacy-based capabilities can be incorporated to address specific healthcare use cases.
It is important for healthcare firms to understand that blockchain alone cannot ensure data privacy or regulatory compliance. It must be complemented by other privacy-enhancing technologies to provide a comprehensive solution. Blockchain companies seeking adoption within the healthcare sector must demonstrate their ability to meet stringent data privacy and security requirements outlined in regulations such as HIPAA, HITECH, and 42 CFR Part 2.
Hartley acknowledged the challenges inherent in the fundamental architecture of blockchain implementations, making it difficult to satisfy the robust standards outlined in healthcare regulations. Nonetheless, she remained optimistic, suggesting that advancements in technology, notably the emergence of web3 services like blockchain, will play a pivotal role in achieving broader adoption. In particular, these advancements will facilitate the unified digital experiences across individuals’ health journeys, contributing to improved patient care and outcomes.