Is Blockchain Taking Healthcare by Storm?

By CIOReview | Monday, January 15, 2018

The advent of the blockchain into healthcare ushers in a sea of opportunities for neoteric developments, from placing the patient at the center of the healthcare ecosystem to augmenting interoperability, security, and privacy of health data. The technology holds the power of fleshing out a new model for health information exchanges (HIE) by making electronic medical records further efficient, protected, and disintermediated. Although it cannot be deemed a panacea, this rapidly evolving field provides a strong base for investment, experimentation, and proof-of-concept analysis.

At its core, blockchain is a collective, indisputable documentation evidence of peer-to-peer transactions developed from allied transaction blocks and stored in an encrypted digital ledger. The technology depends on prevailing cryptographic techniques to let each participant in a network work together (i.e. save, exchange, and view information), despite having no pre-existing trust among the members. Interactions made within the technology become known to all participants and call for authentication by the network before data is inserted, thus enabling reliable collaboration between the participants while at the same time record an immutable audit trail of all interactions.

The potential of blockchain has sweeping implications for stakeholders in the healthcare landscape. Blockchain-driven systems are competent in minimizing or even eliminating the friction and costs of present intermediaries. Capitalizing on this technology brings in the opportunity to link fragmented systems to create insights and better evaluate the value of care. Looking into the future, an extensive blockchain network for electronic health records (EHRs) is likely to boost efficiencies and facilitate superior health outcomes for patients. However, current technologies do not have the ability to wholly address these issues owing to the fact that they face restrictions in terms of security, privacy, and full ecosystem interoperability.

Nonetheless, with blockchain systems designed for healthcare in place, crucial healthcare-focused information is becoming readily accessible for caregivers which in turn can result in faster and improved treatment. From the perspective of security, having a scattered database for healthcare-specific information can be valuable for care providers, given the increased precision and accessibility. All of this combined is sure to give rise to better patient outcomes.