The Utility of Enterprise-grade Blockchain Databases with MongoDB in Healthcare

Updated: Jun 22

A Practical Approach toward Decentralized, Secured Medical Records while Sustaining Scalability

Originally Published by Illumination Curated on Medium

Photo by timJ on Unsplash

Blockchain technology or a decentralized distributed digital ledger system (Figure 1) is a configuration that stores transactional records, known as the blocks. It merely holds the data in many databases, known as the "chain," in a network connected through peer-to-peer nodes. It contrasts with the traditional centralized databases that store the complete information in a single server run by a single administrator. On the other hand, by nature, Blockchain can't rely on a single administrator; thus, it has the potential to fundamentally transform relations across almost every industry, from media and entertainment to logistics and supply chain, medicines, and patient care. The key to using cases across all sectors is the elimination of resistance.

The blockchain trend is merely following a route defined by earlier technological revolutions. For instance, In the 1990s, the Internet's adoption eliminated discord from the composition and dispersion of information. The 2000s marked the era when mass adoption of open-source software wiped out resistance from developers retrieving the building blocks to produce new applications. And In the early 2010s, mass adoption of cloud computing and distributed systems removed the tension from amassing and scaling data center infrastructure while freeing enterprises from expensive, legacy technology stacks. Today we are moving towards mass adoption of blockchain technologies.

Benefits of Blockchain in Healthcare

The utility of distributed digital ledger is too many, with substantial capacity to improve data security and the accessibility of medical records, bringing transparency to financial operations, decreasing patient care complexity, and reducing the amount of administrative friction.

The blockchain trend can potentially eliminate friction along three primary vital paths. These include facilitating "Control," "Trust," and "Value."

Multiple entities can share control over a document or a process using Blockchain technology. A fully public blockchain network acts the same way as the public health system.

In other words, individual participants work in consortiums within which all parties, even competitors, can more easily share health data infrastructure to benefit all patients. Even if not vast enough, a single enterprise can reduce risk by having multiple systems and administrators share control of that organization's Information technology support.

In the blockchain model, created data and information are deemed permanent. Thus, it produces highly tamper-resistant audit trails throughout the chain of the healthcare delivery system. Blockchain creates a single source of immutable truth to establish trust within the network of stakeholders.

Using a distributed ledger system, we can issue and transfer assets without dependence on a central entity. For example, you own hence can share your information at an address with anyone you wish if one holds the private key or token at that address. The latter concept applies to almost any digital or physical asset scenario.

Blockchain utility within the Framework of Healthcare Enterprise Solutions

The blockchain characteristics of decentralization, immutability, and assets have inspired innovators. It has provided them with an additional tool to evaluate real-world & enterprise Information Technology systems and their applications. Still, "blockchain" is treated by most people as a term, assuming one solid prototype of the system, such as Bitcoin. However, the utility of Blockchain is going beyond a monolithic phenomenon into an environment that embraces various hybrid models, as will be discussed later.

Healthcare is a highly information-rich industry. Furthermore, it is a riddled ocean of valuable yet private data. Blockchain scenarios where data is operational and deployed within enterprise solutions have several benefits.

First, Enterprise solutions are familiar as they are similar to regular application deployments. Furthermore, it's more manageable for the enterprise to reflect on privacy and regulatory compliance by caching the data within its walls. Finally, developers can instantly progress on their blockchain implementation while still participating in often slower evolving consortium-based passageways.

Figure 1 Adapted from White Paper; Building Enterprise-Grade Blockchain Databases with MongoDB; 2017

Blockchain Deployment Architecture

Blockchain deployment at an enterprise scale is foreseeable along the spectrum (Figure 2) from one hundred percent centralized to a full-fledged decentralized system. The centralized stack is where a single entity controls each part of the application infrastructure and concomitantly powers all modern Health Information Technology systems. MongoDB, a cross-platform document-oriented database program and a NoSQL database scheme, has recently emerged as a leading database in these distributed systems classes.

In partly decentralized applications, one can add in just enough blockchain technology as necessary to entertain some of the benefits offered by Blockchain, i.e., control, trust, and value. While doing that, the remaining application infrastructure relics are centralized to sustain scalability and ease deployment.

Figure 2 Adapted from White Paper; Building Enterprise-Grade Blockchain Databases with MongoDB; 2017