What is blockchain and how is it applicable to healthcare? Blockchain allows patients to own and be in control of their full health record. With no middle men, they can have immediate access to their records to share with healthcare providers as necessary. The future is decentralized, and that this is one way blockchain will allow for that future.
NATALIE SAYEGH: This is Natalie Sayegh. I’m with the account team at JUICE Pharma. I’m at South by Southwest right now and a question I have is what is blockchain and how is it applicable to healthcare?
When most people hear about blockchain, they probably think of Bitcoin, which isn’t wrong since blockchain is the technology that Bitcoin was built upon. But Blockchain is so much more than just Bitcoin or cryptocurrency. Blockchain is an open-source technology available for the world to use that enables consumers and suppliers to connect directly, removing any third party or need for intermediaries.
It is a growing list of records, called blocks. You can imagine the list to be something like your health records. As you interact with the healthcare system, your personal health records grow over time. Your data grows when you visit a doctor, when you get diagnosed, when you fill a prescription at a pharmacy. All of that data can securely be stored in the block.
Blockchain uses cryptography to encrypt and protect your health record data. The key here, though, is the idea of decentralization. I attended a session here at South By with Joseph Lubin, the cofounder of Ethereum, which is a blockchain. He stressed the idea of decentralization as a key benefit of the blockchain technology.
Among other things, the idea of blockchain and decentralization is important for healthcare when talking about health records. Currently, health organizations own your data and oftentimes they are hard to access and get to the appropriate person at the appropriate time in order to make informed decisions. If we put medical record transactions in the blockchain, it will allow patients to own and be in control of their full health record.
As a patient, you interact with the healthcare system. Sometimes you need to share your personal health information. By removing the middleman, you can give immediate, timebound access to your doctor to view your personal health records. This works with insurance companies, pharmacies and so forth. You own your data.
There is a lot of discussion about blockchain at South by Southwest and while this was only one application, advocates truly believe in a decentralized future, enabled by this technology. In order for that to happen, people need to trust in the technology. In order to trust in the technology, people need to be aware of it and people need to be educated on it.