Blockchain started gaining popularity as a distributed ledger technology following the Bitcoin whitepaper, which was published in October 2008. The main utility of Blockchain, as the underlying technology for Bitcoin, is that it makes the exchange of electronic coins among participants in a distributed network easy, without the need for a third-party, or a mediator.
A year after the publication of the aforementioned whitepaper, the Bitcoin cryptocurrency was implemented, and the code was released as open-source. This move made it possible for other developers across the globe to modify the code and create different use cases – which eventually led to different generations of Blockchain-based technologies. The first implementation of these Blockchain-based cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin makes up the first generation of Blockchain technology, also known as Blockchain 1.0.
The second generation of Blockchain technology, known as Blockchain 2.0, is associated with smart contracts and smart properties. These are those digital properties or assets whose ownership can be controlled using a Blockchain-based platform, and smart contracts are software programs that encode the rules of how a particular smart property is controlled or managed. Examples of this generation of Blockchain include Ethereum.
Building on the rich history and wonderful uses of Blockchain, the third generation of Blockchain technology, known as Blockchain 3.0, is concerned mostly with non-financial applications of blockchain. Efforts are being relentlessly made to adapt the technology to other application areas, especially outside finance, so that it can emerge as an industry-agnostic solution and more industries can benefit from Blockchain. Consequently, Blockchain is now being considered as a general-purpose technology, that has helped various industries including identity management, dispute resolution, supply chain management, contract management, insurance, to name a few.
Because of such growing fascination for Blockchain and its adoption in different industries, Healthcare has also come to represent an area where a large chunk of Blockchain-based technologies’ use cases have been identified. After all, the technology helps in extremely efficient management, streamlined processes, and foolproof security. Therefore, it plays a pivotal role in solving some of the most pressing issues present in healthcare that require collaborative research.
Hassle-free data sharing across crucial healthcare providers play an important role as it offers benefits like cost-effective treatments, precise and to the point diagnosis, and eventually, a better cure for various diseases. By utilizing Blockchain technology, healthcare providers can work simultaneously with the aid of networks with enabled shared access. Uniformity, quality, security, and agility, are some other benefits that come with Blockchain, apart from time and cost-efficiency.
Another key issue that is in the way of superior healthcare management is the need for constant, powerful monitoring. As a response to this, the Blockchain technology allows for documenting the transactions in a record that is decentralized, and people with access can view it. This not only enhances precision but also provides transparency while saving other crucial resources like time, effort, cost, etc.
The success of any healthcare initiative depends on the kind and quality of collaborations that various involved parties are able to bring forward. Because it is based on a distributed ledger technology, Blockchain can make the collaboration of various parties extremely seamless, and promote innovation in the field of Healthcare by empowering participants to collaborate.
Healthcare, being a crucial industry, needs to be extremely well-organized as well as transparent. At the same time, it can’t compromise with security and accuracy as well. Blockchain technology not only results in integrated healthcare information, but also maintains traceable records of distributed data. Further, the public/private key access safeguards the entire system by drastically reducing the chances of data leakage. Blockchain technology can also facilitate the tracking of drug from producer to the patient, therefore apart from ensuring timely supply, Blockchain also reduces the chances of counterfeiting.
The uninterrupted connectivity with level-based authorization and simplified access greatly empowers the providers’ research. As it automates the tedious processes, the Blockchain technology helps healthcare industry in extracting the maximum potential of manpower during challenging times and processes. As a result of this, it enhances productivity which leads to improved output in a shorter span of time. By enabling slicing the processes into a different phase, the Blockchain technology helps in keeping the budget under control while lowering administration costs and allowing for a better, much more purpose-specific utilization of allocated funds.
One of the major challenges during R&D processes in healthcare is the chance of data leakage of crucial patients, that can be used for vested interests. Another challenge is to ensure that only authenticated and most updated version of patient information is available to the parties at different phases. Equipped with the latest cryptographic features, the Blockchain technology not only facilitates the data authenticity with the help of digital signature, but also offers a foolproof security of patient data. Therefore, it brings forth a precise solution to the twin problem of trust and security.
While there are varied points in favor of digitally collecting healthcare data, it is even more important to be able to extract the best benefits out of the healthcare data without making the process complicated. While there are diverse points of digitally collecting healthcare data, it is even more important to extract the best benefits out of this healthcare data without complicating the processes. For that reason, the portability of data while working across diverse systems is extremely important.
Due to its keen focus on streamlined flow, multi-faceted protection system, and uniform portability, the Blockchain technology is capable of perfectly handling diverse challenges as mentioned above. Collectively, it helps in extracting the maximum output from the data collected on various levels.
It is important to remember that Blockchain is only a tool, and it still needs oversight and ethical guidelines. Determining who has access and for how much time duration is important in healthcare data management. Allowing healthcare professionals to easily access such information while also controlling the distribution is one of Blockchain’s lingering challenges.
The potential for entering false data or recording a wrong diagnosis is still there, but the plus point is that all the data is still in one, accessible place. Another specific aspect that Blockchain would excel at in Healthcare is maintaining Data Integrity. Unauthorized edits, deletions, or modifications will not be allowed without a proper timestamp.
Robert Lord, one of Forbes’ contributors, wrote that one of the best advantages of Blockchain is that it fights against integrity-based attacks. Hackers or careless insiders who can cause patient safety issues will be kept at bay because of Blockchain’s access-control. “Blockchain technology is an excellent counter to these integrity-based attacks, he wrote, “and it’s a good forward-looking tool we might deploy to address them.”
Healthcare’s complex web of actors (involved parties) makes it an extremely lucrative use case for Blockchain technology. Stakeholders who don’t cooperate or don’t necessarily trust each other could benefit from a decentralized healthcare data management platform. Blockchain could also empower patients by allowing them to control access to their medical records.
As with any new technology, there are definitely some trade-offs to consider. For instance, while keeping medical records in one place would reduce time and cost for tracking it down, it also raises some privacy concerns. So, depending on the way it’s implemented, Blockchain holds a lot of power to transform the healthcare industry as we know it!
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