Blockchain adoption in healthcare faces obstacles in Germany

Posted byadmin Posted onMay 12, 2024 Comments0
Blockchain adoption in healthcare faces obstacles in Germany

Blockchain technology has expanded beyond cryptocurrencies and is now used in a number of applications, including decentralized databases, which can prevent counterfeiting through transparency and security.

This ability to protect data is especially valuable for the healthcare sector, where blockchain technology can protect data, improve its integrity, and allow patients to control their data more effectively.

It can also improve the transparency of supply chains and verify the authenticity of medicines. Additionally, blockchain aids healthcare identification and can improve biomedical research by simplifying data storage and sharing.

Blockchain in the healthcare sector: The untapped potential in Germany

Although blockchain technology offers numerous advantages, its applications are limited in the German healthcare sector.

The German Federal Ministry of Health recognized the potential of blockchain and organized a workshop on the topic in 2019.

From 142 project outlines, 20 finalists were selected, and awards were given to projects such as secure electronic prescriptions, decentralized Patient Consent Service forms and a blockchain-based work disability certificate.

However, to date, none of these projects have been put into practice.

New initiatives have emerged since then, but many remain isolated and rarely implemented.

What is stopping Germany from adopting blockchain?

Why are there so few blockchain projects in the German healthcare market when the technology is so promising?

Volker Nürnberg, professor of healthcare management at the Technical University of Munich, told Cointelegraph that the German healthcare sector is highly regulated and is not always considered an engine of innovation, which poses a particular challenge for startups:

“From a global perspective, the healthcare sector is not always the engine of innovation. In addition, it is highly regulated [en Alemania]. Startups, in particular, don’t always want to navigate their way through the legal jungle.”

Nürnberg also addressed the technical, ethical and privacy obstacles that hinder the implementation of blockchain. Protecting sensitive data and ensuring interoperability are key factors: “Without policy and legislators – due to strong regulation in the healthcare sector – the introduction of blockchain technology is not possible.”

Lukas Weidener, a medical doctor and investor in several decentralized autonomous medical organizations, told Cointelegraph that these “particularly strict data protection regulations to protect sensitive patient data place high demands on the security and confidentiality of blockchain systems.”

GDPR poses unique challenges for blockchains

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) ensures that sensitive patient data is processed in accordance with strict security and confidentiality requirements.

This is particularly important in the healthcare sector, where misuse or unauthorized disclosure of data can have serious consequences.

GDPR compliance can therefore be considered a mark of quality and a foundation of trust for patients and users, as it ensures that their data is secure and treated with care.

According to Weidener, however, these data protection and security requirements can pose a challenge for blockchain applications. This technology is based on transparency and immutability of data, which may conflict with the right to be forgotten or the principle of data minimization.

Weidener stated that these regulations could lead to companies from other countries overtaking German ones, limiting the control and influence of Germany’s industry in the global development of these technologies.

On the other hand, the GDPR also offers the opportunity to promote the development of blockchain applications that are designed to meet high standards from the beginning.

“This could make Germany a pioneer in the development of secure, transparent and patient-oriented blockchain solutions in the healthcare sector,” Weidener said.

According to the expert, close cooperation between technology developers, data protection officers and regulatory authorities is required to fully leverage the benefits of blockchain technology and comply with the requirements of the GDPR. “The goal should be to develop innovative solutions that ensure both technical progress and the protection and security of patient data.”

The bad reputation of blockchain

Another factor hindering adoption is the association of blockchain technology with cryptocurrencies.

The association of blockchain technology with the volatility and security concerns of cryptocurrencies has a negative impact on public perception, Weidener said, adding that the “perceived energy consumption of some blockchain protocols may also lead to concerns about the sustainability of the environment”.

“This could raise reservations among healthcare decision-makers and users, who view the technology with skepticism, especially if sustainability and environmental protection play an important role in their organizations.”

In addition to these obstacles, the “strict authorization and certification processes for medical devices mean that any technological innovation must undergo exhaustive testing and approval procedures, which slows down the innovation cycle.”

It is necessary to invest in research and financing

Adopting blockchain technology in healthcare also requires a significant investment in technology and expertise, which is particularly difficult for smaller clinics and practices. According to Weitener, the need to update or even completely replace existing IT infrastructures and the lack of standardized solutions make implementation even more difficult.

Weitener emphasized the importance of targeted investment in research and funding, especially for new technologies that comply with data protection regulations. Without this investment, Germany risks falling behind technologically and patients losing access to advanced technologies.

Weidener said that interoperability and integration with existing IT infrastructures, as well as the development of user-centric applications that allow easy interaction with blockchain-based healthcare applications, are also important.

“This is the only way Germany can play a leading role in the development and implementation of blockchain applications in the healthcare sector.”
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