How Should Radiologists Think About Blockchain?

What do medical records, teleradiology, supply chain management, credentialing, and clinical research all have in common? They all are potential use cases for blockchain technology.

In a March 26 presentation to the Society for Imaging Informatics, Woojin Kim, M.D., chief medical information officer in the healthcare division of Nuance Communications, explained some of things he thinks radiologists need to know about blockchain — both positives and challenges. Kim was a co-founder of Montage Healthcare Solutions, which was acquired by Nuance in 2016. Previously Kim had served as interim chief of division of musculoskeletal imaging, director of the Center for Translational Imaging Informatics, and chief of radiography at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Kim began with a basic tutorial on what blockchain is. It creates a decentralized, distributed ledger, and databases that are immutable.

“Blockchain and its potential benefit of decentralized management, immutable audit trails and improved security are being leveraged in other industries such as finance and retail,” he noted. “Although you don’t hear as much about it as you do about artificial intelligence, there are a number of efforts to use this technology in healthcare,” adding that it has the potential to benefit radiology.” However, he added that there are many privacy and security challenges blockchain needs to overcome before it can be adopted. “As it becomes more widely adopted and the technology improves, it will be important for radiology professionals to be more familiar with it and understand when to use it and when not to.”

4 tips on Blockchain and GDPR compliance -

Blockchain technology has been touted as an important innovation when it comes to storing and securing data, which abounds in healthcare. Some experts say the technology could help facilitate the creation of a more comprehensive, secure and interoperable repository of health-related information.

Many healthcare organisations in Europe are eager to use blockchain; however, they are wary of complications over how to protect data while using it under the latest law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

You might also like: Smart contracts in healthcare

Indeed, the European Union Blockchain Observatory & Forum has acknowledged that there are ongoing “tensions” over the issue of data privacy and use blockchain under GDPR, which took effect in May 2018. GDPR is designed to reach a balance between keeping data secure while still allowing its free movement.

The problem, as noted by the forum in its recent report, is that the law was crafted while blockchain was evolving, and therefore was based on the linear flow of information between providers and users. Since blockchain is based on the decentralisation of data, interpretation of GDPR in relation to the use of blockchain, becomes difficult.

“There is no such thing as a GDPR-compliant blockchain technology,” the report says. “There are only GDPR-compliant use cases and applications.” The report also points out that many of the GDPR’s requirements are easier to interpret and implement in private, permissioned blockchain networks than in public networks that don’t require permission.

The forum provides these tips for using blockchain while being able to comply with the requirements of GDPR: