Companies and cyber thieves profit from medical records. You may have heard about data being bought and sold but probably didn’t think about medical records being data. Well, they are. Just as how massive corporations buy and sell information like which websites you visit, organizations also exchange medical data.
In fact, medical data is regarded as high value. What if you could benefit from this value? Blockchain technology gives us the opportunity to create NFTs from our medical records and then cash in on their exchange.
One visit to the doctor’s office could result in a trail of data that gets passed along to various organizations. Imagine, right at this moment the multitude of people being seen in a medical capacity. That’s a lot of information. And it’s valuable. So much so that unfortunately, cyber thieves claim medical data is 10 times more valuable than credit card details.
Adding to the value of this information is the ease with which it can be illegally accessed and sold. “Healthcare providers and hospitals are just some of the easiest networks to break into,” said Jeff Horne, Vice President at cybersecurity firm Accuvant.
What’s Included with This Information?
The data typically does not contain information like your name or personal identifiers. But may contain your age, partial zip code, and gender.
The types of data being sold:
- Lab result data;
- Longitudinal patient-level data (this is data that tracks a patient’s treatment over a period of time);
- Prescription information.
Much of this data gets used for benevolent purposes. Through analysis of these records, there’s so much good that can come. Examples of how this data is often used:
- Researchers can learn the optimal types of treatments for certain conditions;
- Epidemics can be predicted and/or possibly thwarted;
- Pharmaceutical companies can assess the best outcomes of medication use.
The question isn’t so much about the use of the data but more so about who is profiting and if the true owners of the data, the individuals, can also benefit if they choose.
Patients are not aware this is happening. If you ask most people if they give permission for their medical data to be shared or sold, many would say ‘No, thank you.’ And maybe that is why they were not informed explicitly (outside of small print documentation they signed without reading). But that’s a big maybe. Perhaps they would give full-informed consent under certain conditions—i.e. knowing their identity isn’t being shared and understanding the information is going to good use.
The systems that store these records need security upgrades. These systems are frequently victims of hacking. Many hospitals, already strained financially, struggle to allocate enough funds to maintain air-tight system security.
Per Dave Kennedy, security expert of Trusted SEC “As attackers discover new methods to make money, the healthcare industry is becoming a much riper target because of the ability to sell large batches of personal data for profit.” “Hospitals have cyber security teams that are overstrained and struggling to cope, so it’s relatively easy for these hackers to get a large amount of personal data for medical fraud.”
Additionally, “Hospitals and clinics cite a variety of reasons for the breaches, including improper records disposal, device theft, and natural disasters. Hacking or compromised technology, however, are the primary culprits” (Wallstreet Journal).
It’s worth noting that although much of the information exchange involves for-profit organizations, there are also not-for-profit organizations involved so not every data exchange results in a monetary benefit.
A Better Alternative – Blockchain Technology
What if we give capable patients the option to have ownership and management of their medical records? Putting control back into their hands…your hands. So you decide what data gets shared and where. And what if you had the option to earn from your records? One of the ways all of this would be possible is through the use of blockchain technology.
Think of a blockchain as a sophisticated database. The database is supported by a network of computers. The transactions that occur across this database are verified and validated by advanced cryptography (mathematics). There are different types of blockchains and the technology offers a plethora of advantages over traditional databases. We don’t need to dive into all the possibilities and advantages of the technology for this article, but if you’re curious, please see the ‘blockchains simplified’ page to learn more.
Blockchains have many advantages to common healthcare databases including security and how the information within the blockchains is recorded and accessed. Blockchain technology also gives us the opportunity to create NFTs out of health data. A NonFungible Token (NFT) represents a unique asset. That asset can be a piece of art, music, or even, in this case, a medical record.
Companies are proposing patient-centric databases built on top of blockchain technology. These databases benefit you, the patient, by:
- Giving you access to your medical data.
- Allowing you to give or revoke access consent.
- Giving you the ability to track where the data travels.
- You could potentially be rewarded for things like allowing your data to be used in studies in exchange for compensation.
Monetary rewards are great, but there are also possible life-changing implications to ownership. Being able to view your data, means you could potentially monitor it for accuracy. This impacts the quality of your care and health security. As it is, there is widespread patient mismatching and inaccuracies in patient data. Ownership may be one cog in the wheel to help correct this.
What’s Out There?
There are blockchain-based platforms with the vision to change how data is managed and exchanged. Here are three:
- Aimedis. This is a multi-layered platform using blockchain technology to offer providers and patients management of health care data.
- RightsHash. Developed by technology firm, Acoer, “RightsHash™ provides a globally unique way to digitally represent any asset using novel blockchain technology…[The] Individual owns and controls data [and] Monitors flow of information.”
- Go! app. This collaborative project between Enjin and Health Hero is developing an app, ‘Go‘. The app collects health and wellness data from apps like Fitbit, Google Fit, and Apple Health. The data are represented by NFTs called W-NFTs (wellness NFTs) which can be traded.
Benefits on Top of Benefits
Patient-centric data management built on blockchains wouldn’t just benefit patients. It could also lower costs within the industry.
These projects also drive health engagement; people are committed to their well-being and actively playing a part in their health management, rather than giving full responsibility to care providers.
As is, in healthcare, huge amounts of data are collected but it’s scattered between physician’s offices, medical centers, and even between different departments within medical institutions. Blockchain networks provide can connect these data hubs.
Blockchain technology gives us the opportunity to consolidate this information to allow for ease of access, increase accuracy, and make the data more secure. And, of course, give patients the choice of managing and benefiting from exchange of their medical data.
Source NFT Plazas