Estonia using Blockchain to secure health records

By Medha Basu

Blockchain’s public sector use goes beyond payments.

The Estonian Government will use Blockchain technology to protect citizens’ electronic health records.

Digital transactions made with Blockchain technology are irreversibly recorded. The records are impossible to change because they are shared globally across thousands of computers in real time through a distributed ledger.

While Blockchain has largely been used to secure payments, Estonia shows that it can be more widely implemented.

Blockchain protects online health records by creating permanent evidence of any changes made to the information. Hackers will not be able to hide their trail if they access or change any information. It also provides real-time alerts to attacks.

"It enables us to react to any incidents immediately, before potentially larger-scale damages can occur”, said Margus Auväärt, Head of the Estonian government’s eHealth Foundation.

Estonia is one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world. Citizens carry smart cards through which they can access over 1,000 online government services including viewing their health records.

With traditional cyber security like firewalls, attacks can go undetected for weeks, and it is harder to identify what data has been stolen or tampered with.
The Estonian Government is partnering with startup Guardtime to implement Blockchain. The startup says it has been working with the government since 2011 to secure public and internal records.

While the Estonian Government already uses Blockchain in its tax and business registration systems, it is looking to expand its use across government. The Estonian Information Systems Authority will make the technology available for all government agencies, and increase investments to better support public sector implementations, Guardtime said in a press release.

Elsewhere, the UK Government is planning to trial Blockchain to secure welfare payments. The trial was announced in a report this year by Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Mark Walport, who also recommended using it to secure hospital records.