AI and Blockchain
Artificial Intelligence Emerging Technology

Remarkable Discovery: Combining AI and BlockChain Can Improve Healthcare

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January 11, 2021
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AI and Blockchain – Working Together To Improve Healthcare

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Introduction

With the incredible innovations already achieved via AI-based techniques like machine learning, computer vision, and more, it is astounding to realize that the world has yet to witness the peak of the impact that AI activities will have in healthcare.

 

The present solutions face the major challenge of accessing training data, which plays a monumental role in their learning processes. Thus, the acceptance of AI and the way AI operates as a whole is affected.

 

While AI continues to work on surmounting the odds, scientists and engineers are brainstorming new ways to merge the two biggest things that have ever happened to the technological world: artificial intelligence and BlockChain. A healthcare sector that leverages both will be one we will be very proud to associate with.

 

Both of these incredible technologies rely on data. BlockChain can serve as a storehouse for every data needed for any machine learning or AI model. Artificial intelligence interprets said data and uses it to improve performance in areas like banking, security, and of course, healthcare.

 

Utilized in tandem, there is no limit to their possibilities for innovation.

 

This article will focus on two things:

 

1) We will explore how AI can be improved with Blockchain, and

 

2) How the combination of the two will revolutionize access to healthcare and healthcare data.

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain is a digital ledger that can record not just economic transactions, but virtually anything of value. Holding immutable data in a secure, decentralize, and encrypted manner, it enables the distribution of public ledgers and ensures that transactions and activities are never altered.

 

The term “blockchain” brings to mind things like Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Sure, this distributed ledger technology (DLT) was created for financial transactions, but research findings have shown it can be used in almost all areas of industry.

 

Blockchains come in public or private (permissioned) categories that determine their scope of use. While public blockchains (like Ethereum) are open to everyone, the permissioned iterations are only accessible via invitation. Accordingly, they are used in corporate environments as they are fast and secured at a high level.

 

A key feature of blockchain technology is its ability to enable unrelated parties to transact or share data on a common ledger. This data sharing is validated via cryptography and consensus mechanisms like proof of work. With blockchain, users can easily share sensitive information like medical health reports with a high level of confidence; the technology ensures that data, identities, and transactions are securely recorded and verified. Everyone on the network receives identical copies of the entire process, including updates as they occur.

Blockchain and Healthcare

As illustrated, blockchain allows the sharing of medical information over a peer-to-peer network of computers rather than a centralized authority. With this innovation, patients exercise full authority over their data and can elect to share it with researchers or doctors all over the world. Figure 1 provides a detailed summary of how blockchain can improve healthcare.

 

Most agree that the healthcare industry is overly “datafied.” The various sources come from hospital records, medical records, examination results, and devices. There are also huge droves of information generated from biomedical research relevant to public health. This glut of data calls for a highly secured and easily accessible platform like blockchain. Without it, analysis and new solution creation that can address our challenges could be considered comparable to finding needles in haystacks.

 

To take this conversation a step further, the world is suffering from data overload. 

 

Information from the International Data Corporation (IDC) estimated the approximate size of the digital universe in 2005 to be 130 exabytes (EB). This number expanded greatly in 2017 to hit an astounding 16,000 EB or 16 zettabytes (ZB). The IDC predicted that by 2020, the digital data universe would expand to 40,000 EB, with the healthcare industry generating as much as 2,314 EB of the information.

The digital Universe is around 40, 000 exabytes with the healthcare industry generation as much as 2,314 exabytes.

-Statista, 2020

Since healthcare is a multi-level ecosystem, data is regarded to be as powerful and restrictive a resource as time. Owing to complicated paperwork, delays, miscommunications, and human error, the present (archaic) management techniques we largely utilize are inefficient.

 

This is why we need blockchain!

 

The American College of Surgeons Bulletin states that blockchain technology can be a “converge point for health information.” The recent COVID-19 crisis and other factors have inundated the healthcare industry with data whose potentials remain untapped. Blockchain will allow us to cut costs, optimize storage, and improve transparency.

 

See How 8 Digital Health Companies Are Using Cryptocurrency To Reward Users

 

How Can Blockchain Augment Data Management in Healthcare?

It improves interoperability:

 

“Blockchain has the capacity to transform how pharmaceutical data is controlled, managed, shared, and acted upon.” This according to Mark Treshock, leader for Blockchain in Healthcare & Life Sciences at IBM Global Solutions. It will go a long way toward improving the sharing of information such as insurance claims, hospital databases, pharmaceutical needs, and supply chain logistics.

 

Hoping to affect changes in its efficiency, the FDA is currently exploring the use of digital systems to combat drug tracking and verify the validity of certain drug prescriptions — blockchain is one of the main options up for consideration.

 

It facilitates optimal storage and management of health records:

 

Blockchain will make healthcare data more decentralized and grant it greater access potential. Since patients will have control of their own information, it will be easier to do things like seek second opinions or investigate family health histories. Although the research work on Blockchain Technology in Global Health care (2017-2025) may not be the final solution to the challenges faced, it has the potential to drastically cut costs and optimize workflows.

 

It boosts medical research:

 

The decentralizing aspect of blockchain technology will make patient datasets readily available for research. Thus, enormous amounts of information will be available to researchers who wish to train their artificial intelligence models and formulate new drugs and policies, this for the benefit of all mankind.

Conclusion

Data is the lifeblood of AI, and blockchain has what it takes to secure this data and facilitate its sharing as necessary. Blockchain technologies can improve our information’s security, integrity, and accessibility. In tandem with blockchain, AI can more efficiently train models to identify diseases, prescribe medications, and much, much more.

 

Thoughts? Questions? Make sure to comment and share!

 

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SOHAIL MERCHANT
Youngstown, Ohio

Medical Doctor (M.D.); Research Fellow at Lumen Foundation Artificial Intelligence Division

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