Design Choices and Trade-Offs in Health Care Blockchain Implementations: Systematic Review (Preprint)
O'Donoghue O., Vazirani AA., Brindley D., Meinert E.
<sec> <title>BACKGROUND</title> <p>A blockchain is a list of records that uses cryptography to make stored data immutable; their use has recently been proposed for electronic medical record (EMR) systems. This paper details a systematic review of trade-offs in blockchain technologies that are relevant to EMRs. Trade-offs are defined as “a compromise between two desirable but incompatible features.”</p> </sec> <sec> <title>OBJECTIVE</title> <p>This review’s primary research question was: “What are the trade-offs involved in different blockchain designs that are relevant to the creation of blockchain-based electronic medical records systems?”</p> </sec> <sec> <title>METHODS</title> <p>Seven databases were systematically searched for relevant articles using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA). Papers published from January 1, 2017 to June 15, 2018 were selected. Quality assessments of papers were performed using the Risk Of Bias In Non-randomized Studies—of Interventions (ROBINS-I) tool and the Critical Assessment Skills Programme (CASP) tool. Database searches identified 2885 articles, of which 15 were ultimately included for analysis.</p> </sec> <sec> <title>RESULTS</title> <p>A total of 17 trade-offs were identified impacting the design, development, and implementation of blockchain systems; these trade-offs are organized into themes, including business, application, data, and technology architecture.</p> </sec> <sec> <title>CONCLUSIONS</title> <p>The key findings concluded the following: (1) multiple trade-offs can be managed adaptively to improve EMR utility; (2) multiple trade-offs involve improving the security of blockchain systems at the cost of other features, meaning EMR efficacy highly depends on data protection standards; and (3) multiple trade-offs result in improved blockchain scalability. Consideration of these trade-offs will be important to the specific environment in which electronic medical records are being developed. This review also uses its findings to suggest useful design choices for a hypothetical National Health Service blockchain.</p> </sec> <sec> <title>INTERNATIONAL REGISTERED REPOR</title> <p>RR2-10.2196/10994</p> </sec>