Blockchain technology, the underlying mechanism of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, has
been gaining popularity and attention in various sectors, including healthcare. But what is blockchain and how can it benefit the health industry?
November 11, 2023 at 9:00 am
Updated November 11, 2023 at 9:00 am
What is Blockchain?
Blockchain is a type of distributed ledger technology (DLT) that enables a network of users to record and share data in a secure, transparent, and decentralized way. A blockchain consists of a chain of blocks, each containing a set of transactions or data records, that are linked together by cryptographic signatures, called hashes. Each block also contains the hash of the previous block, creating a tamper-resistant and immutable record of the entire history of the blockchain.
Blockchain networks can be open to the public, allowing anybody to join and contribute, or closed, allowing only authorized members to view and confirm data. Blockchain networks can also use different consensus mechanisms, such as proof-of-work or proof-of-stake, to ensure the validity and integrity of the data and prevent malicious attacks or fraud.
Blockchain Applications and Benefits in Healthcare
The healthcare industry can benefit from the use of blockchain technology in several ways, such as:
• Improving electronic health records (EHRs): Blockchain can enable a more accessible, accurate, secure, and cost-effective way of creating and maintaining EHRs. By using blockchain, patients can have more control and ownership over their own health data, and grant or revoke access to different providers or entities as needed. Providers can also access and update the patient’s data in real-time, without relying on intermediaries or centralized databases. This can improve the quality and coordination of care, reduce errors and duplication, and enhance patient privacy and security.
• Facilitating medical research and innovation: Blockchain can allow medical researchers to share their work, collaborate, and gain consent for data collection and access. By using blockchain, researchers can create a verifiable and
transparent record of their research process, data, and results, and avoid issues
such as plagiarism, data manipulation, or publication bias. Blockchain can also enable researchers to access and analyze large and diverse datasets from
different sources, such as EHRs, wearable devices, or genomic data, and
generate new insights and discoveries. Moreover, blockchain can help
researchers to obtain informed consent from patients or participants and ensure
ethical and compliant use of their data.
• Protecting against cyberattacks and data breaches: Blockchain can enhance the security and resilience of the healthcare system’s data and infrastructure and protect them from ransomware and other cyberattacks. By using blockchain, the healthcare data can be distributed and encrypted across multiple nodes, making it harder for hackers to access or modify it. Blockchain can also provide a backup and recovery mechanism, in case of a system failure or outage, and enable the detection and prevention of unauthorized or fraudulent transactions or activities.
Challenges and Opportunities for Blockchain Adoption in Healthcare
Despite the potential benefits of blockchain technology in healthcare, there are also some challenges and barriers that need to be addressed and overcome, such as:
• Technical complexity and scalability: Blockchain technology is still evolving and maturing, and there are many technical issues and limitations that need to be solved, such as the trade-off between security and performance, the
interoperability and standardization of different blockchain platforms and
protocols, and the scalability and efficiency of the network and transactions.
Moreover, blockchain technology requires a high level of technical expertise and
knowledge, which may not be readily available or accessible for many healthcare
• Regulatory and legal uncertainty: Blockchain technology poses new and
complex regulatory and legal challenges, such as the compliance with data
protection and privacy laws, the ownership and liability of the data and
transactions, the jurisdiction and governance of the network and participants,
and the enforcement and dispute resolution mechanisms. These challenges may
vary depending on the type and design of the blockchain network, and the nature
and scope of the data and transactions involved. Therefore, there is a need for
clear and consistent regulatory and legal frameworks and guidelines, that can
balance the innovation and adoption of blockchain technology with the
protection and rights of the users and stakeholders.
• Cultural and organizational resistance: Blockchain technology requires a
paradigm shift and a cultural change in the way the healthcare industry operates
and interacts. Blockchain technology challenges the traditional and centralized
models of data and power and introduces new and decentralized models of trust
and collaboration. This may create resistance and reluctance from some
healthcare stakeholders, who may perceive blockchain technology as a threat or
a disruption to their established roles and interests. Therefore, there is a need for
education and awareness, as well as incentives and benefits, to foster the adoption and acceptance of blockchain technology among the healthcare
Blockchain technology has the potential to transform the healthcare industry, by
improving the efficiency, quality, and security of the healthcare data and services, and by enabling new and innovative solutions and opportunities for the healthcare stakeholders and users. However, blockchain technology also faces some challenges and barriers that need to be addressed and overcome, to achieve its full potential and value. Therefore, there is a need for more research, development, and experimentation, as well as more collaboration, regulation, and education, to advance and support the adoption and implementation of blockchain technology in healthcare.
DeFI stands for decentralized finance, offering open and accessible financial systems built on blockchain technology.
Yield farming involves earning interest by lending or staking cryptocurrencies.
Layer 1 blockchains are the primary networks (e.g., Ethereum), while layer 2 blockchains scale and improve performance on top of them.