The healthcare industry in the United States has shown great interest in blockchain technology, especially after the recent cyber attacks on medical research facilities working on COVID-19 vaccines.

According to the DevPro Journal, healthcare officials believe that adopting blockchain technology can provide data security against cybercriminals and hackers because it does not contain a central failure point. Users can only access data using a very complex access key, making ransomware and similar attacks null.

What reinforces the idea of ​​applying blockchain technology in health institutions is that attacks have been repeated over the past two years. In 2018, health care institutions were subjected to more than one cyber-attack, which resulted in the penetration of more than 15 million patient records in 503 violations. DevPro Journal noted the number of breaches increased by 60% in 2019.

Healthcare industry players believe blockchain can provide a measure of data protection against hacker attacks. It will also offer many other advantages, such as providing safe and complete access to the patient’s global medical records. Patients also can control access to their data.

But while blockchain can help the industry, there are still plenty of challenges for adoption. 

Challenges that hinder the adoption of blockchain technology in the health sector

The first of these challenges is that all entities involved in patient care and medical research must adopt this new model of collaborative exchange of information with new read/write standards and the distributed platforms and systems needed to support this new blockchain technology.

The second challenge is the difficulty of processing large amounts of data in a single transaction such as an MRI image, a CAT scan, or even a genome sequence.

The third challenge is that Blockchain does not remove deleted or modified records; Instead, additional blocks are added to the chain to represent these deletions and modifications. This process results in the need for ever-increasing storage, which poses a great financial and technical challenge.

But even with these challenges, major healthcare players have gambled on the technology. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was one of the first to realize the potential for blockchain technology in the health sector. In 2017, the FDA partnered with IBM Watson to develop a secure exchange of medical records data using the blockchain.

Mount Sinai was also not far. In 2018, it opened a Biomedical Blockchain Research Center to evaluate its own medical research programs and its partnerships, and eMQT utilized blockchain to study the results of their sequencing of DNA from thousands of Africans with sickle cell disease.