by Elliot Davis & Benjamin Davis firstname.lastname@example.org
There is an attic. It is old, the wooden beams are teaming with bugs, there are boxes and bins of files all climbing over one another, spilling onto the floor, falling between cracks and occasionally getting eaten by a passing rat. Somewhere in this paper-apocalypse is your healthcare data; scared, lost and alone. Healthcare databases hold a tremendous amount of information about people that many companies would love to get their hands on, and sometimes do.
Data is information, information that can be protected, sold, lost, found, traded, mishandled and abused. The current systems for handling healthcare data are outdated and potentially harmful to customers. In 2017 alone, there were 477 breaches in healthcare security which affected 5.6 million people.
There are a variety of companies which provide services based on the guidelines set down in HIPAA, or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which is legislation that provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information. Unfortunately, in the new wild west of the world wide web, data doesn’t always play by the rule of law and according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, there have been 184,614 complaints regarding HIPAA violations since 2003. This is in part due to the fact that many data-security services rely solely on people. Since different hospitals use different services to protect sensitive healthcare data, there are a lot of different attics out there susceptible to hungry rats and human error.
Using distributed ledger technology and cryptography, Block-chain could give you the keys to the attic and a clean, locked file cabinet to move your data into. If you’re like most people, you probably have not taken stock of the whole of your health data. This might include your broken bones, surgeries, family history, and that rash that your spouse more than insisted you get checked out.
Right now, you don’t own this data. The current system leaves it in the hands of insurance companies, hospitals, and shady middlemen. With your data on a block-chain, you would be the one in control. Using your personal private key, you would decide who is allowed to see what and when. And when you control your data, you get to decide what is done with it and even profit from it.
Perhaps you need a few extra bucks around the holidays. With your data secured on a block-chain, you could decide to sell a certain piece of it to a research team devoted to fighting a disease you care about or maybe, one you have personal experience with.
But why stop at the data already in the attic? Nebula Genomics is a blockchain-based company that wants to put your full genome on the block-chain. The genome is not only a data set but an invaluable asset for insights into personal health, disease research, and individualized treatment. With access to this data, we might see an evolution in the way the current healthcare system looks at you as a patient.
The real change, however, may not come in the form of money, security, or even treatment. When your data truly becomes your data, you are given a responsibility. A responsibility to take care of yourself that is far more powerful than a kind word from your doctor, call from your mother, or crazy late-night WebMD search.
Your healthcare data is an extension of you; you give it a face and a purpose and only you should have the right to decide what is done with it.