Healthcare Blockchain and Blockchain Technology

Understanding Healthcare Blockchain Technology in Behavioral Health & Telehealth Security

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Although telehealth has made healthcare more accessible, increased accessibility comes with unique challenges. While healthcare professionals already have to follow HIPAA rules and regulations, telehealth increases the risk of online security issues. Healthcare cyber attacks already occur twice as often as those targeting other industries. This article will answer the question, “What Is Blockchain?” to explore some of the most common security problems and how blockchain technology offers one of the most promising trends in the future of security for behavioral and telehealth services. 

Security Concerns in Behavioral and Telehealth Services

However, it is challenging to ensure that behavioral health and telehealth services are secure and safe for various reasons. For one, much sensitive information is discussed and exchanged during behavioral health sessions via therapy or treatment centers for substance abuse. Unfortunately, patient portals, telehealth software, and the hardware patients use, like webcams, can be hacked, and that sensitive information can fall into the wrong hands. In addition, patients may not have access to a secure connection to use telehealth services. They may not have access to a laptop or desktop computer at home, either. As a result, they may turn to public Wi-Fi sources and mobile devices, both of which are common conduits for cybercriminals.

Data privacy concerns abound. Some clients or patients may be hesitant to use telehealth services due to internal and external barriers, including the perceived lack of security and privacy of platforms chosen by clinicians or their organizations. With good reason, clients and patients are possibly leery of participating in telehealth because of uncertainties about the repercussions of data collection, where it’s being stored, and who has access to it. They often must rely on choices or guidance made by professionals, many who are unaware of needed cybersecurity measures, despite HIPAA or PIPEDA mandates imposed by state and federal law. Fortunately, blockchain has the potential to solve many security concerns.

What Is Blockchain Technology?

Blockchain technology involves a distributed database, or digital ledger shared across a computer network, such as an advanced electronic health record (EHR). Blockchains are best known for their role in cryptocurrency, but uses for blockchain technology are rapidly evolving in healthcare and other industries. The next generation of data security, healthcare blockchain, involves creating and maintaining a decentralized and immutable record of uniquely identified entries. That is, every entry is fully identified and cannot be modified without leaving another data trail about the modification, its source, time made, and other identifiable data points. 

Blockchain technology then guarantees the security and fidelity of data and transactions into or out of the ledger. Data fidelity involves the accuracy with which data quantifies and represents the unique characteristics of its source. The tracking data that is integral to a blockchain network minimizes the risks of being hacked while opening the record to relevant informational sources. The vision is that the full range of medical and allied healthcare providers, pharmacists, teachers, patients, their friends and family members, and other stakeholders can leave traceable and immutable entries to add new information, correct previous entries or records, expand on incomplete records to offer an increasingly complete record.

How Healthcare Blockchain Is Helping Solve Telehealth Security Concerns 

Blockchain technology can be beneficial throughout the healthcare industry to improve current EHR systems, which are riddled with issues. Blockchain EHRs allow a network of individuals quicker access to patient profiles across facilities and locations, securely facilitating care and offering innovation in the following areas:  

Protect Data 

First, blockchain technology can protect data. As mentioned above, changing or duplicating any information entered into the blockchain is nearly impossible. That sensitive data is essentially set in stone, and there’s no way to waver on accuracy or authenticity. For example, a blockchain can help protect a healthcare institution’s information security program. Your healthcare organization should have strict guidelines on handling sensitive information, including an inventoried list of assets that require increased security measures. The decentralized nature of blockchain makes it the perfect hub for storing and sharing this information. This way, cybercriminals can’t steal sensitive data and even attempt to extort your healthcare organization to keep this data from being leaked.

Silos are also a big problem in healthcare, especially when it comes to behavioral health. This is partly due to behavioral health professionals not having the technology to facilitate quick, multi-organization access to data. It is also because they sometimes feel it is in the best interest of their patient’s privacy to share information.

Patient’s have a right to privacy when using telehealth and behavioral health services, just like with any other health-related assistance. Patients may attend a follow-up appointment with their doctor or have a therapy session for addiction in the privacy of their own homes. However, healthcare professionals still shoulder responsibility for keeping their information private.

Utilizing a blockchain for data protection is critical because it provides a secure way to exchange information between behavioral care specialists and medical professionals. The correct info can also be shared between pharmacies and diagnostic labs. This creates a more seamless, safe care experience for patients. In addition, a private blockchain ensures that only authorized users have access to confidential patient information.

Validate Transactions 

One of the most challenging things in behavioral healthcare and telehealth is maintaining the accuracy of information. With silos in the industry, it is difficult to ensure that healthcare professionals always look at the most up-to-date information about the people they serve.

A blockchain can help with this because it requires all people involved in a transaction to sign off on the validity of that transaction. For instance, if a patient’s personal health information is to be entered into the blockchain, the patient, caregiver(s), behavioral health professional, physician(s), pharmacists, and other medical specialists involved must sign off on it before it goes into the blockchain. All parties get a copy of the record for safekeeping. That way, if anyone attempts to change the record, the parties can confer on the accuracy of the change. 

Monitor Changes

Although changing the information in a blockchain is complicated, it is possible. However, it is only possible for individuals authorized to make edits or remove blocks of information without breaking the chain — and those individuals all have to agree on editing or removing data.

Whether a behavioral therapist, doctor, nurse, or other medical professional is trying to change a patient’s record in the blockchain, monitoring changes and who’s involved with them is much more straightforward.

Conclusion 

Emerging blockchain technology has the potential to make sharing information more manageable and more secure for healthcare professionals and patients worldwide. The most prominent benefit is blockchain’s ability to make data exchanges safer while opening up a new world of collaboration and communication between healthcare facilities. 


This benefit keeps patients in control of their information and minimizes the risk of misinformation being passed across healthcare organizations. This is particularly salient when prescribing opioids and other class A and B drugs. Blockchain’s role in addressing behavioral health and telehealth security issues can change information security programs and drastically reduce the risk of data breaches.

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Disclaimer: The Telebehavioral Health Institute (TBHI Telehealth.org) offers information as educational material designed to inform you of issues, products, or services potentially of interest. We cannot and do not accept liability for your decisions regarding any information offered. Please conduct your due diligence before taking action. Also, the views and opinions expressed are not intended to malign any organization, company, or individual. Product names, logos, brands, and other trademarks or images are the property of their respective trademark holders. There is no affiliation, sponsorship, or partnership suggested by using these brands unless contained in an ad. We do not and cannot offer legal, ethical, billing technical, medical, or therapeutic advice. Use of this site constitutes your agreement to TBHI Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.

Sam Bowman
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Sam Bowman

Sam Bowman writes about people, tech, wellness, and how they merge.
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