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Chinese-Funded Study Suggests Blockchain for Medical Records Privacy

With more reports of patients gaining health-related access through technology in China in the wake of the corona virus , a research supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China has proposed blockchain to be a promising solution to achieve data sharing with security and privacy preservation for its immutability advantages.

Jin Sun, Lili Ren, Shangping Wang and Xiaomin Yao of Xi’an University of Technology in Shaanxi suggest in their research article that the data sharing solution they propose seeks to resolve issues related to the verification, preservation and synchronization of electronic medical records which has always been a difficult problem in the medical system.

It will also help the random dissemination of patient records will bring various risks to patient privacy. Blockchain and smart contract technology will be leveraged for the distributed electronic medical records searchable scheme.

How to ensure the privacy, security, and sharability of the electronic medical records (EMRs) system while achieving fine-grained access control is one of the most controversial issues with the development and application of cloud computing technology in which the EMRs system has shown a trend of doctor-centered development, the study indicates.

From online diagnosis and treatment to providing medical services due to many offline clinics and medical institutions being closed as well as 600 internet hospitals in China as at this year. This includes Dalian Medical University’s First Affiliated Hospital as the first internet hospital designed to use blockchain technology to secure patient data though concerns have been raised about possible privacy-related issues.

The researchers’ proposal of a framework using blockchain and smart contract technology to solve the problem of secure storage and sharing of current EMRs that will not only solve centralized data storage of servers of several medical institutions but also be good at lowering stress from data storage and high-frequency access to blockchain.

Doctors can encrypt electronic medical records with appropriate access policies and then upload the ciphertext to the Inter-Planetary File System (IPFS) as a global point-to-point distributed version file system. The combination of IPFS and blockchain allows doctors to process large amounts of electronic medical data via IPFS, to eliminate the need of putting the data itself on the chain, to save network bandwidth in the blockchain. Only in their scheme, when compared with other recently proposed medical record sharing schemes, that data is stored in the IPFS to solve the problem of data loss or being tampered with in the cloud environment.

“The combination of IPFS and blockchain allows users to process large amounts of data through IPFS, so that the data itself does not need to be placed on the chain, which not only saves the network bandwidth of the blockchain, but also effectively protects it,” the article states.”

Also, doctors and patient encryption will help achieve electronic medical record security as a keyword index stored and its smart contract deployed on the Ethereum blockchain for searching encrypted medical records in the distributed system is designed. Once the smart contract is deployed, it will be executed automatically and operated in good faith as the attribute-based encryption scheme is used to achieve fine-grained access control for data requester.

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