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China’s first blockchain-powered hospital raises concerns

Features like storing patient and treatment information and “internet hospital” services are crucial in the wake of the pandemic

China is gearing up to launch the pilot program for the First Affiliated Hospital of Dalian Medical University, the country’s first-ever blockchain-powered hospital in January 2021. The hospital will use blockchain technology to store patient and treatment information.

The use of blockchain in the healthcare sector has seen a rise since the beginning of the pandemic with blockchain-based contact tracing apps in various countries. Though blockchain-powered hospitals add a new dimension to this, government officials have voiced concerns over data security.

According to CN-Healthcare, blockchain integration with China’s blockchain-powered hospital is currently incomplete but is expected to be launched sometime in 2021. The hospital will enable patients to access the so-called “internet hospital” services via WeChat. The blockchain network will also store the consultation and treatment data in order to maximise contactless solutions due to the pandemic.

However, officials of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology have reportedly told hospital administrators their concerns over the safety of blockchain infrastructure and specifically raised data security issues.

Niu Tie, director of the First Affiliated Hospital of Dalian Medical University, said “Our information department is facing a lot of pressure [from the government]. As a leading hospital in the region, any decision-making was very cautious (…) The requirements are also very strict in terms of privacy.”

“The Ministry of Information decided to explore the application of blockchain from the perspective of data security, and also pointed out the direction of development for the technical staff,” he added.

The government official further stated that the hospital has to ensure the information entered into the blockchain can be verified and that it can secure storage, transmission, and access to data. Such comments have been observed as contradictory to China’s well-known policy of mass surveillance of its citizens.

Hospital officials, on the other hand, have said that their blockchain platform is crucial to maximizing contactless solutions due to COVID-19. With access to services via WeChat, the blockchain network stores consultation and treatment of patients with the added security and immutability features offered by blockchain.

The Dalian hospital and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology are still discussing the best ways to guarantee data privacy and security before the planned launch.

Written by Harshini Nag 

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