HomeHealthHealth CareBlockchain Technology May Transform The Future Of Healthcare

Blockchain Technology May Transform The Future Of Healthcare

Blockchain technology has revolutionized the vision of the future of information and data. At the most fundamental level, blockchain technology enables decentralization of data; that is, it allows control of information to move away from a centralized entity (for example, an individual or organization) to a distributed network. By using a distributed network to control information, society can ensure greater transparency, trust and reliability of that data.

In an early white paper released by the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at the University of California Berkeley, the authors explain that “blockchain is essentially a distributed database containing records or ledger of all transactions or digital events that have been conducted and shared between participating parties. Each transaction in the ledger is verified by consensus of a majority of the participants in the system. And information once entered can never be erased.” The most popular use of blockchain to date is the famous cryptocurrency Bitcoin, a decentralized version of digital currency.

Proponents of the technology argue that blockchain will revolutionize the world across all industries, making data and information exchange easier, more reliable and more secure. While some industries are trying to become early adopters of this technology, others are cautious about exactly how it can be used and proceed with caution.

In a presentation late last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) discussed the potential for blockchain in healthcare. The paper presented several possible real-world examples for its use, ranging from supply chain transparency and securing access to medical records, to streamlining communications with insurance companies, and even better capabilities for remote patient monitoring.

Especially with regard to health data, blockchain enthusiasts believe the technology can provide greater security and reliability compared to existing solutions. A article published by the World Economic Forum explains: “Blockchain-based health documentation solutions provide secure encryption techniques that protect the integrity of individuals’ information when communicating with different parties. Through tokenization, smart contracts and the encryption techniques involved in blockchain network transactions, the process of pre-authorization will be greatly reduced, allowing patients to more efficiently receive the necessary and informed care. This is a result of the healthcare provider being able to quickly access the relevant information where previously they would have been dependent on the patient or on physically mailed or emailed files from various sources such as local doctors, laboratories, etc.”

But others are wary. First, blockchain is not well understood by the masses, creating skepticism and reluctance among many to apply the technology to something as crucial as healthcare infrastructure. In addition, use cases for blockchain, while growing, are still limited. However, the basis for the technology itself is not brand new. In fact, as explained by the HHS presentation, the earliest forms of blockchain theory were presented in the 1980s, with iterations of the modern technology taking more definite shape over the past two decades.

It goes without saying that healthcare information and data have a long wait for innovation, especially in a world where cybersecurity threats and data reliability are constantly at stake. Indeed, blockchain technology is likely to stay; however, innovators, policymakers and technology enthusiasts will need to figure out ways to use this technology in a safe, responsible and patient-centered way in healthcare.

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