The public story of blockchain technology is one of extremes, of fortunes earned (and sometimes lost) practically overnight. The field is so lucrative, its leaders earned their own special category on Fortune’s prestigious “40 under 40” list, yet so unfamiliar that most people struggle to understand the basics. In fact, though the technology is most commonly associated with online cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, its larger impact may be found in an unrelated field: Healthcare. How might blockchain revolutionize the healthcare system?
The Basics of Blockchain
At its heart, blockchain is a digital ledger that allows data to be safely stored and shared. Where the technology differs from previous online documents is in the way information is stored. Traditionally, data storage was centralized, meaning any document you accessed on the internet was stored in a central location. When you read an online document or view a web page, you’re actually seeing a copy of that document that was sent to your computer. For files that are updated regularly, such as medical records, you need a way of verifying that your copy is up to date and accurate, and previous systems did not meet this challenge successfully.
The major innovation with blockchain is the decentralization of data storage. Rather than storing records on a central server, the ledger is shared between each computer in the network. Every one of these computers has access to the complete document, and changes made in one location will automatically be reflected at every other node in the network. By eliminating the central storage space, distributing the ledger among many locations, and constantly updating every copy, you are guaranteed to have a complete and accurate record of any file.
Blockchain’s Role in Healthcare
There are two major problems plaguing the healthcare system that blockchain might solve in the near future. First comes the issue of record sharing. When doctors and other professionals access a patient’s medical records, there is currently no guarantee that the records are up to date, and treatment can therefore be stalled or rendered ineffective. Blockchain’s distributed storage model could guarantee accurate health records are available when needed.
Second, blockchain could negate the possibility of records being tampered with, corrupted or lost. A significant implication of this might be the elimination of ransomware attacks. In recent years, there has been a startling increase in the number of medical facilities that have been hacked by having their medical records held for ransom, and their operations have been crippled while waiting for a resolution. Because blockchain records are stored simultaneously on many computers, blockchain renders these attacks impossible. In order to cripple such a network, hackers would need to crack the security of hundreds of devices simultaneously.
Looking Toward the Future
Better management of medical records will lead to better patient care, and the stability of your workplace. While being an early adopter of blockchain-based software will likely give you an edge over your competitors, more is needed to ensure continued growth. At UHC Solutions, we’re dedicated to securing your facility’s future through innovative leadership and strong guidance. For help finding your facility’s next executive hire, contact our healthcare consultants today.