You’ve heard of Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin, but did you recognize “blockchain” is the underlying technology that powers both? Uses of blockchain technology within the economic system are abundantly clear and we’re beginning to see innovations in manufacturing and consumer data protection. So how are people using blockchain within the healthcare space? We explore this here.

We’ve all heard of cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, and therefore the mysterious underlying technology behind it called “blockchain”.

However, what’s starting to become clear is that a rogue economic system is merely a part of the worth blockchain can add.

Other industries, from manufacturing to consumer data protection are using blockchain effectively.

Today, we’re getting to take a deep dive into how blockchain technology is getting used in another major industry, and not one necessarily related to early adoption — healthcare.


What is blockchain?

Before we continue, we’d like a minimum of a rough understanding of blockchain technology, how it works, and why it is vital .

Blockchain may be a technology wont to store complex and, often, data that you simply don’t want manipulated or changed over time (e.g. by a hacker).

A blockchain consists of two elements. First, you (guessed it) you’ve got blocks. The blocks are simply boxes of digital data. Picture a file filled with receipts. The chain is the public database that holds all the boxes together.

Blocks in blockchains can hold any information, but generally hold transaction information, when it happened, and what happened by / to whom.

These blocks also store a singular ID (called a hash) so every block is exclusive .

Here’s how blockchain works:

  1. Some triggers (e.g. filing an insurance claim) triggers the creation of a block. That block stores whatever information it’s configured to store. For healthcare, which may twiddle my thumbs’ name, date of claim, and other relevant information. That information is added to a block.
  2. Next, the info must be verified. This suggests that the info must be reviewed by the network at large to make sure that it checks out with what’s already stored on the blockchain.
  3. Once the block is verified, it becomes a part of the blockchain.
  4. Finally, whatever trigger activates the addition of knowledge to the blockchain is completed.


Why blockchain is exclusive

The reason blockchain is employed in things like cryptocurrency is that it is the verification step. Traditionally, if you would like to verify some data that’s being entered into a system or network is correct, you’ve got to possess a gatekeeper, who holds a master record of everything that’s happened before.

A bank may be an example of this. Banks hold records of what proportion of money you’ve got in your account, in order that once you attempt to buy a speedboat together with your AMEX, the boat seller can ask the bank: ‘hey, does this person have enough money to shop for this?’ Because the bank (or, rather, the banking system) has been logging your digital transactions, they will say yes or no.

The problem with this setup is that these gatekeepers become incredibly powerful, and incredibly tantalizing targets for hackers to travel after.

Blockchain, in contrast, is verified by asking the whole network. It’s as if every single node within the network has their own record of transactions, and they’re all independent and identical. When the verification step comes up, you don’t need to ask the bank — you only attend the network at large. You ask every independent and identical record of the blockchain if the new addition of knowledge is sensible or not. If so, then it’s vitrified and your transaction.

Because of this setup, blockchain is incredibly difficult to hack and incredibly secure. It’s also extremely accessible, because it’s completely open. While anyone can see the blocks, most blockchains are built so there is no personal data scored within the block,

Blockchain and healthcare use cases

The primary advantage of blockchain in healthcare is that it solves a really thorny privacy problem: how does one give patients unrestricted access to their own medical health records, while also limiting who can see that healthcare data because it has skilled various healthcare providers (hospitals, GPs, specialists, etc…)

Second, blockchain presents a chance for true interoperability across multiple, complex systems that span different locations, formats, technologies, and more. Due to the naturally splintered nature of the digital healthcare ecosystem, there’s naturally tons of friction getting records from point to point. What’s more, that splintering makes it impractical to possess a centralized financial institution .

Third, blockchain is positioned to scale back or eliminate data-driven healthcare mistakes. In Canada, as an example , there are around 28,000 annual deaths as a result of healthcare errors. Blockchain, with it’s security and distributed ledger, not only makes it harder to hack, but also makes it harder for an error to both occur and propagate through a system.


Wrap up

Blockchain may be a new technology. And like all new tech, it’s a touch rough round the edges. It’s energy-intensive, hard to figure out and, right now, slow.

But the underlying concept of a blockchain, and therefore the security, transparency, and value that blockchain enables isn’t only tantalizing, but paramount to our collective success during a digital world. In healthcare, the pain of simultaneous security and transparency, and therefore the consequences of when those systems fail, are felt more acutely.

Blockchain might just be the answer we’re trying to find.