How Blockchain will transform healtcare

Advances in technology are radically changing the world around us. We have all seen how various mainstream industries have been dramatically disrupted by new applications built on top of new technologies. Streaming services have disrupted the entertainment industry, retail has been disrupted with the move to online shopping, television now competes with YouTube for viewers and radio competes with online podcasts. All of these advances would not be possible without the widespread adoption of the foundational technologies underpinning them (broadband, personal computers, smart TVs, and mobile phones).  

Traditionally conservative sectors like banking and healthcare have been slower to adopt new technologies but this is changing rapidly with the entry of disruptive new applications. Start-ups such as Revolut are changing how people manage their finances and make payments. Healthcare too is changing, with the widespread adoption of electronic healthcare records but there is still some way to go to extract the value that new technologies offer fully.  

Blockchain is one such transformative technology. In 2008, a mysterious character called Satoshi Nakamotoa released a whitepaper detailing a new form of digital currency called Bitcoin. Bitcoin brought together a number of existing technologies to create a new way to store and exchange value. Like all disruptive applications, this new digital currency was built on top of a revolutionary technology called a blockchain.  

Blockchain allowed two strangers who had never met to exchange funds over the internet without any trusted intermediary like a bank. The reason that they could trust each other is that the details of the ownership of the currency are stored on a ledger and a copy of this ledger is stored on thousands of computers (nodes) all over the world. Anyone can view the ownership of an asset on the blockchain but crucially, if anyone tries to hack into the system to change the ownership in the ledger, the thousands of other nodes in the system notice this and overrule the hacker. In other words, Blockchain ensures that users can trust that the information has not been tampered with by anybody and as a result it allows users to trust the system itself without the need for a third party.  

People soon realized that blockchain could be used to solve problems in other sectors such as Education, Finance, Identity, Intellectual Property, and Property ownership, to name but a few. Healthcare is another such industry where blockchain has real potential and I believe that there are many ways that blockchain will transform healthcare for the better. A few years after Bitcoin emerged, a new blockchain called Ethereum was created and this added additional functionality in the form of Smart contracts.  

Smart contracts are a set of instructions written in computer code and stored on the blockchain. They allow the automation of manual tasks once certain predefined conditions are met. Healthcare is beset by inefficiencies due to a multitude of manual and repetitive administrative tasks. Blockchain technology is still in its infancy and issues such as scalability and ease of use still need to be addressed but as the technology matures there is tremendous potential to improve healthcare outcomes by eliminating manual processes as well as improving trust and security of healthcare data.

I am taking more time for reflection and writing up posts related to MedoSync’s areas of expertise: medical billing, healthcare, technology, and being a start-up in that ecosystem.

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