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Blockchain Technology and the Healthcare Revolution

Although the principles from which bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies originated were initially exploited and tested in the economic field, the technology behind these digital tokens has the potential to radically renew many sectors, including healthcare.

At a very high level, blockchain technology is a system that records transactions on linked blocks and stores them in encrypted registers. There is no central administrator, and the management is a decentralized network that can be updated in near-real time, while protecting the privacy of each person involved in operations.

Users can only update the blocks they have access to personally, which are then replicated throughout the network. Without going into deep detail about the difference between private and public blockchains, it is worth exploring how this technology is poised to fundamentally change healthcare.

In the healthcare sector, blockchain could be incredibly useful in managing and archiving the most diverse medical records. Clinical files, invoices, research and diagnostic test results have saturated the professionals in the field and the systems they use. The implementation of a solution such as blockchain technology could therefore be an orderly and easy-to-manage one. For this reason, many enterprises are seriously considering the application of these principles in order to improve various aspects of their work. Potential improvements include the following: 

  • Traceability of Medicines: Every transaction between pharmaceutical companies, wholesalers, pharmacists and patients could be traced, so as to verify important product information, detect counterfeit medicines and ensure that patients actually receive the medicines they are prescribed.
  • Use of Smart Contracts: The creation of a specific documentation would also make it possible to share, anonymously and in respect of privacy, the data of some patients within specific healthcare organizations.
  • Secure Clinical Trials: More secure systems, powered by blockchain-based immutability, would ensure that data from clinical trials could not be altered and modified fraudulently.
  • More Medical Accuracy: The transparency of blockchain systems and accompanying ease of collaboration between patients, researchers and physicians could improve data exchange and comparison, leading to specific and personalized care pathways.
  • Enhanced Genomic Research: Access to protected genetic data within a blockchain system would be very useful for physicians and medical researchers.
  • Better Management of Insurance and Billing Practices: Blockchains would not only help to effectively manage one of the most complex areas of bureaucracy and documentation but also help to prevent fraudulent situations.
  • Better Use of Health Records: In a blockchain-based system, the management of medical records would be carried out following authentication, which would provide the opportunity to share patient and treatment information and notes in complete safety.
  • Improved Cybersecurity: Each hash in a healthcare blockchain system could be characterized by special permissions, specific for physicians, patients, nurses or other users and associated devices, so that access is allowed only to those who have proper permission.

These are just a few examples of possible blockchain technology applications in the healthcare sector. Considering the countless possibilities and their undeniable potential, what separates us from the widespread implementation of blockchains in healthcare?

We must not forget that we are still talking about a very recent technology: While bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have existed for several years, their boom and entry into the collective imagination remains fairly new. The technology behind these assets is still unknown to most, and being able to convince the public that the principles behind Bitcoin are applicable to the medical field is not an easy task.

There is still a long way to go, and it will be necessary to have an innovative spirit that is not indifferent to the various professionals involved. In the meantime, there will be the chance to refine blockchain systems before deploying them in the management of such a complex and sensitive sector as that of healthcare.

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