The current healthcare system is plagued by a myriad of shortcomings, especially when it comes to how patients’ medical records are processed and stored in a rigid centralized system, which often leads to delays in treatment, loss of records and sometimes even the administration of inadequate treatment. Blockchain can be used as a foundation for a healthcare data mainframe, which would add a whole new layer of security and transparency to patients’ data while also being HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability) compliant. Mandatory for any healthcare-related application, HIPAA compliance means that patient data is private and requires protection through various encryption methods.

According to IBM’s healthcare BCDB case study, their blockchain framework can be used to streamline patient consent and health data exchange, clinical trial management, while enabling outcome-based contracts that would enable healthcare institutions to move from a fee-for-service model to a fee-for-value model.

For the past decades, the current healthcare framework proved to be unable to manage patient data, which can be characterized as being highly fragmented. Through a blockchain-based healthcare app, patients become the owners of their data, which means that no one is able to interact or even see their data without receiving consent. A revolutionary step towards decentralization, it will be much easier for patients to interact with physicians, regardless of geographic proximity. Managing patient health records in legacy systems has proven time and time again that inefficiencies and data losses are commonplace, and that band-aid solutions only temporarily remedy these issues. A blockchain-powered backend application can empower both clinics and patients, by enabling them to interact in a consensus-driven environment, where data ownership is law.

IBM forwards the idea that a blockchain mainframe will have a global impact on how clinical trials are performed. By removing the geographical barrier, doctors from Asia or Australia, for example, will be able to perform clinical trials with samples of patients from Europe, by simply accessing records from a unified global mainframe of health records. In statistics, the size of the sample directly correlates with the accuracy of the result. So one can easily imagine how a global mainframe of health records can completely reshape how medication is tested. But this does not mean that blockchain will make patient data accessible to big corporations. Patient Consent is a key element in a blockchain-based platform. As such, companies will need explicit consent to be able to use patient records.