Originally founded to keep a record of Bitcoin transactions, blockchain technology is all set to revolutionize the healthcare industry.
What is Blockchain?
There are several definitions of blockchain available, some which are quite easy to understand and some, not that easy. According to Techopedia, it is “a critical part of the Bitcoin peer-to-peer payment system” while according to Investopedia, it is a “public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions that have ever been executed. It is constantly growing as ‘completed’ blocks are added to it with a new set of recordings. The blocks are added to the blockchain in a linear, chronological order”. However, there is little need to tie blockchain with Bitcoin always.
As pointed out by the Chief Scientist of PokitDok Bryan Smith, “A blockchain, at its essence, is a distributed database containing records whose contents, authenticity, and security are guaranteed. It drives efficiency, protects rights through immutable records, and establishes a system of accountability”. He further added, with blockchain, “engaged participants could opt in to share information that they want to share. That data could be accessible to authorized parties through a variety of front ends – from a mobile device to a sensitive compartmented information facility. There’s no other database that exists with that kind of functionality.”
How Blockchain Works in the Healthcare Sector
Blockchain addresses the prime concerns of scalability, security as well as the privacy of medical records.
Blockchain refers to the very way data gets organized making a provision to record as well as verify the transactions. This system has its foundation in the concept of an authorized ledger recording the events. The present system holds the ledger in a centralized location while blockchain requires each and every participant to have a copy of this record. All the changes in the record must be compared against the nodes before approval. This strengthens the security quotient and brings down the occurrences of unauthorized alterations.
Conceptually, the data of the patient here gets stored on Bitcoin blockchain or a technology similar to it. Here, a multisig address gets created to maintain the record of each patient. The patient is provided with this address and a private key. The healthcare providers who choose to make use of this system will also be assigned a unique signature. By making use of the multisig principle that is used by the Bitcoin wallets, the patients get the opportunity to give the access to a healthcare provider of his choice. This will allow the patients an access to data and at the same time, would save thousands of dollars that the hospital authorities spend in maintaining the electronic record of the patients.
You can check this URL to know more on the way it functions.
What are the Prime Roadblocks to the Implementation of Blockchain?
The prime barrier when it comes to implementation of blockchain is that no one is still well aware of the ways to handle it. Moreover, before this system gets implemented, the health industry also needs to change significantly. Names like GuardTime, Gem, and Factom are already making use of this technology. However the healthcare industry is still not very clear about the way this system would work or allow the patients to accrue benefits. Since it has several challenges to meet, it is not hard to guess that this system would take a few years before it finds mainstream usage.
As pointed out by BrianBehlendorf, the executive director of Linux Foundation Hyperledger blockchain project, “The barriers to adoption of information-sharing standards in the healthcare industry are many and difficult,” “and few have to do with inadequate technology, but instead with alignment of incentives. What blockchain technology might do is introduce new players and new incentives to the market, thus potentially changing that landscape. It also introduces new risks, since we’re talking about widely shared data (even if encrypted), so we can’t be in a rush to implement. We’re very eager to work with the healthcare industry to investigate where we might see some early wins. The challenge, as always, is to find a set of stakeholders with enough of a common interest that they are willing to invest and collaborate. I’ve seen that first-hand in the healthcare industry, so I know it’s possible.”
We can expect blockchain to be a game changer in the healthcare industry. Though we still do not have much idea as to whether the digital currency industry would take off or no, we can certainly expect this technology to revolutionize each and every industry it touches apart from casting an impact on the very way the interaction is carried out in the healthcare industry.