Every new technology often sounds like science fiction. But Blockchain is not, and it is definitely not overhyped. It has applications in almost every area from healthcare to supply chain management, voting, digital ID, certifications, gaming, media, and this list goes on. Most people know it as the technology powering bitcoin, Ethereum, and other popular cryptocurrencies. However, Blockchain has expanded beyond its use in cryptocurrencies. But people still have one big misconception about this technology; they consider that Blockchain is a cryptocurrency, which is certainly not the case. The Blockchain can exist without cryptocurrency, but as of this moment, cryptocurrency cannot exist without Blockchain. A blockchain is just one type of distributed ledger; not all distributed ledgers necessarily employ blocks or chained transactions. Blockchain is a time-stamped, tamper-proof ledger of activity that is shared across a network of computers. Invented in 2009 by an anonymous person or group known as Satoshi Nakamoto as a way to transfer the digital currency bitcoin, its applications have now expanded to include the exchange of other forms of digital assets, such as data, in private, permissioned networks ideal for companies .
Blockchain has disrupted many industries, and healthcare is one of the industries, which has been entirely transformed with the application of Blockchain. With digitalization, the healthcare industry worldwide is experiencing massive change. Concerns over surging health care costs, effective care of chronically ill and rural patients, and the need for early detection of diseases have all resulted in a marked increase in IoT innovations and their rapid adoption over the past few years. Blockchain is gaining popularity as a technology that may be able to assist in alleviating these long-standing issues. Previously hesitant competitors are collaborating together to see what the technology can accomplish and are aiming to create new transparent business models. There is no doubt that for every touchpoint in the healthcare ecosystem; there could be a blockchain application. The reason is simple – the healthcare ecosystem is nourished with data generation and sharing, from biomedical research in a lab with cell/tissue analysis all the way through to insurance payments when care is provided . For a long time, the healthcare industry has been struggling with data collection, storage, and transmission issues. Blockchain technology can assist the healthcare industry in resolving the problem of patient data storage. It has the potential to eliminate all of the cultural, geographical, political, and religious barriers that now obstruct patient data management.
In most cases, key patient information is scattered across different medical institutions in different formats, which is the key hurdle in managing and accessing the relevant data. What makes it even more difficult for healthcare providers and patients is that data management systems and security regulations often vary from agency to agency. Further, many medical records contain errors, and outdated data management systems cannot track and repair these errors. Hence, in extreme situations and urgent needs, it is almost impossible to easily, quickly, and safely access all the information necessary for the patient. With the help of blockchain technology, healthcare providers will be able to facilitate data management processes that they cannot identify. Blockchain can help healthcare providers seamlessly collect, share, analyze, and protect medical records. The typical use cases of Blockchain in the healthcare sector are shown in Figure 1 . Blockchain enables doctors and patients with the opportunity to access necessary patient data from anywhere without compromising the privacy or security of either party.
However, blockchain technology is not a panacea for the healthcare industry; there are several issues in adopting the blockchain platform. The healthcare data is highly distributed, and the entities involved do not want to share their data due to profitability concerns; and lastly, Blockchain causes a major change in the way the healthcare sector traditionally works, and people involved are rigid in adapting as per the change . Apart from these issues, it is still anticipated that Blockchain will become the key to removing barriers to medical data sharing and ultimately realizing the industry-wide transformation towards value-based healthcare.
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