How to Utilize Blockchain for Enhanced Healthcare Security in Biotech

By April Miller, Senior Writer,
LinkedIn: April Miller
X: @rehackmagazine

Leveraging blockchain technology to enhance health care security in the biotech sector proves to be a promising venture. If providers and IT professionals coordinate their approaches and follow the best practices for implementation and utilization, they will strengthen their defenses.

Approaches to Blockchain Utilization for Biotech Security

While the biotech sector has entered the digital age, its current approach still leaves much to be desired. Electronic health record (EHR) systems can’t securely transfer, store or manage data. A blockchain-based alternative, on the other hand, leverages smart contracts to set strict permissions and prevent unauthorized access.

Blockchain health information exchange is another approach for enhanced biotech security. It streamlines peer-to-peer data exchanges because its decentralized nature eliminates the need for intermediaries. This way, it reduces attack surfaces and strengthens defenses.

This decentralized technology makes exchanges efficient even when strict standardization protocols are not established. Since most blockchain applications are open-source, data distribution between health care IT systems will simplify. Peer-to-peer collaboration between providers will be more accessible than ever.

One particularly promising blockchain utilization revolves around clinical trial data exchanges. Researchers, regulators and stakeholders can leverage smart contracts to restrict access privileges. This approach accelerates trial progress, improving collaboration while preserving participant confidentiality.

Another approach to blockchain utilization involves intellectual property security. Considering biotech research is incredibly expensive, building stakeholder confidence to secure investments is vital. Enhancing IP security with smart contract-based access privileges and immutable records is as secure as professionals can get.

The biotech supply chain has long experienced quality and timeliness issues because of poor traceability. According to the Food and Drug Administration, 72% of active pharmaceutical ingredient suppliers are overseas — few operate domestically. Blockchain technology enables transparency, allowing professionals to validate products’ origins and authenticity.

Understanding Existing Health Care Security Challenges

The biotech sector has long been a valuable target for threat actors. However, considering medical breakthroughs are poised to advance at an unprecedented rate, the surge of new IP and protected health information will drive a cyber attack renaissance.

Any health care IT professional can attest to the fact existing security systems aren’t capable enough. After all, research shows threat actors compromised 90.5% of patient health records from 2015 to 2020. The biotech sector is in desperate need of a solution. Fortunately, blockchain technology promises one.

Security Advantages Blockchain Provides

Blockchain technology has proven to be highly valuable despite being an emerging technology. Why else would roughly 40% of enterprises plan to invest up to $5 million into it? One of the principal value drivers in biotech is its ability to enhance data security.

Blockchain’s immutability is an incredible technological development. The biotech sector could benefit substantially from leveraging a tamper-proof tool during data storage and exchanges. Since unauthorized access attempts are one of the leading causes of breaches and cybersecurity incidents, it is an ideal advantage to have.

Data exchanges are a critical part of clinical collaboration in biotech, so the blockchain is incredibly advantageous. Its decentralized nature secures business-to-business (B2B) transfers, which streamlines collaboration and enhances data distribution between health care IT systems.

Best Practices for Utilizing Blockchain for Security

Effective blockchain utilization for biotech security is only possible if professionals follow the best practices for implementation and utilization.

1. Metadata Storage

Health care facilities should leverage blockchain in a B2B capacity as it was intended. More specifically, they should use it to store metadata about medical documents rather than storing the data itself. This way, they enable secure peer-to-peer requests.

2. Data Encryption

Health care IT teams should leverage encryption techniques so only trusted professionals with decryption keys can read entries. Since encrypting data lengthens propagation time — even with compression — they should consider leveraging larger block sizes.

Where plain text propagation takes seconds, encrypted data takes hours. However, leveraging both larger block sizes and compression can achieve a 25% time acceleration, according to one study. While real-world variables may change the results, the concept still stands.

3. Consensus Mechanisms

Health care IT professionals should leverage consensus mechanisms like proof of work or proof of authority to ensure all participating stakeholders feel confident in the transactions’ validity. In biotech, this level of data integrity is crucial because it prevents research manipulation.

4. Interoperability Standards

B2B data distribution between health care IT systems is only seamless with the right strategy. Since most blockchain software is open source, establishing interoperability standards to standardize data exchange protocols is vital — and should be straightforward.

5. Security Audits

While the blockchain is essentially tamper-proof and provides unparalleled security, no tool can guarantee safety. IT professionals should consider conducting routine security audits to identify potential vulnerabilities proactively.

Effective Blockchain Utilization Improves Biotech Security

The biotech sector has been waiting for a health care data security solution for years. As cyberattacks increase in frequency and threat actors continue to evolve, the need for a long-term solution grows more pressing. Fortunately, blockchain technology has incredible potential in this aspect.

If B2B health care providers and IT professionals coordinate, they can develop a sector-wide solution for existing security gaps. Data storage, distribution and management will become simplistic. Providers can benefit significantly from leveraging this technology whether they utilize it in clinical trials or in EHR systems.