Blockchains refer to an expanding system of data collection guarded with cryptography. Resistant to modification, they contain various sets of information or blocks, each of which has a link to its predecessor. This method of recording data is usually done to store transaction details. The interesting thing to note about blockchains is that although it functions like a database, no one party controls it, not a bank, company, or even the government.
The information in these blockchains can be publicly presented, although access is only granted to a select few. Structure-wise, this database is formed via various nodes (computers) that store this information. Thus, a blockchain works in three ways. Communication is done via a network of distribution through nodes, records of all transactions are shared among relevant parties via a digitalized ledger, and all transactions are encrypted in a way to protect them from being modified and to incorporate data in a particular order.
Blockchains are used in various industries including healthcare. If used in the healthcare industry, blockchains will remove the need for a central party to view the data, giving patients more control. As medical data is confidential, sharing it with relevant parties can be regulated in a secure way.
One of the biggest benefits of having blockchains in healthcare is interoperability. Due to the encryption, patients are able to view their medical history without having to worry about their data’s privacy. It, thus, gives them a supervisory role over their data by taking away the power from a primary party. Blockchains can also be utilized for patient record verification, as sometimes data can be copied or have discrepancies. They can be employed to compile patient histories in a single place which would ultimately make their medical treatment easier to administer. This would ultimately mean that medical practitioners and assistants would also be able to improve their method of treatment due to the availability of all of the patient’s medical information. Furthermore, blockchains can provide a detailed cycle of transaction demand/supply and keep track of any postponement. They also offer efficiency in preventing embezzlement, a detailed track of clinical trials and drug administration, and improvement to the management of revenue.
While blockchains can bring about positive changes in the healthcare industry, they still have some shortcomings. They are a fairly recent technological development and due to this very reason, it can be difficult to institute them without proper understanding and usage. Many organizations across the world are having trouble trying to incorporate blockchains, especially since there already exists a system that performs this task. With regards to healthcare, it may be quite arduous to upload all pre-existing data into blockchains. Instituting blockchains is not cheap either since this is a new and advanced technology. The primary cost of installation is very high and for the healthcare industry, it would be a major investment that could be spent on other medical expenses. Moreover, it is not certain that blockchains can incorporate long chains of early data such as that of scans like MRIs and CTs.