“The blockchain is the most consequential technology since the internet. The internet is programmable information. The blockchain is programmable scarcity.” — Balaji Srinivasan, CEO of 21.co
What is Blockchain?
Blockchain is a type of data structure that’s used to create a digital ledger of transactions and share it among a distributed network of computers. The distribution network could include smart phones, tablets, cloud-based resources or on-premises compute nodes. Imagine a universal digital ledger that helps shape how you transact with other individuals or entities all in a secure and anonymous fashion. A key outgrowth of the ledger is the idea of “smart contracts”, which “provide security superior to traditional contract law and reduce other transaction costs associated with contracting”.
Blockchain Is Changing the Healthcare and Life Science Industry
Technologists and health-care professionals across the globe see blockchain technology as a way to streamline the sharing of medical records in a secure way, protect sensitive data from hackers, and give patients more control over their information Blockchain has the potential to propel innovation in preventative care and community-based healthcare models. The capacity of a distributed ledger technology for ensuring data integrity while sharing between parties can ensure collaboration between rising trends in healthcare; which are vital to the improvement of health in communities worldwide.
Here are some of the other ways that blockchain could benefit health care:
- Clinical data sharing. Advance directives, genetic studies, allergies, problem lists, imaging studies, and pathology reports are just some of the data elements that could be distributed. Alternately, instead of storing actual patient data, blockchain could be used to store access controls — like whom a patient has authorized to see their health data — even if the clinical data itself is stored by the EHR.
- Public health. A shared, immutable stream of de-identified patient information could more readily identify pandemics, independent of governmental bodies currently aggregating this data — for example, an influenza reporting system.
- Research and clinical trials. Distributing patient consent or trial results could foster data sharing, audit trials, and clinical safety analyses.
- Administrative and financial information. Insurance eligibility and claims processing workflows could benefit from blockchain and have decreased transactional costs.
- Patient and provider identity. National (or international) patient or provider identities could be secured in the blockchain, providing the basis for health data portability and security.
- Patient-generated data. Personal health devices, “wearables,” “Internet of Things” (IOT) devices, and patient-reported outcomes are just some examples of patient-generated data that could leverage the blockchain for security and sharing.