Aldo Agostinelli

Blockchain, the technology which will change the health system forever

Who said that the blockchain technology can be used only for electronic transactions and in the financial world? Actually, it can be applied to a variety of sectors and it would be a mistake to put too many limits to it, as it has been happening so far. Read it in Italian.

Wherever there is a need for a public and safe record and a verified identity of participants, blockchain can be useful.  Yorke Rhodes III, Blockchain Business Strategist in Microsoft explains us why: “Once you have recorded your identity in the blockchain, the self-regulating nature of such technology turns it into a property of the user who can therefore operate in different scenarios only for a limited time (set by the parties involved) and on the basis of the information provided” (What does identity mean in today’s physical and digital world?).

For instance this can apply to the health system, where confidentiality and identity protection are vital.

Blockchain can safely record patients’ health records. This is why several hospitals have been researching a way to use it.

BitHealth, for instance, is a healthcare system based on the technology. Users data is circulated globally through a peer-to-peer sharing system similar to Bittorrent. Patients’ medical history is protected by a cryptographic system and doctors can simply recall the relevant records to check all the information needed to treat patients, whose identities will remain confidential. Payments are made in Bitcoin, upon approval of the digital signatures (Blockchain applications in non-financial markets).

This way medical records can be shared among physicians in case they needed a second opinion to on the best therapy to be prescribed or for research purposes, and the physical conditions of patients can be monitored while solving two of the most distressing problems of the health system: privacy and personal data.

Recently IBM Watson Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have signed an agreement to identify a safe, efficient and scalable system  for sharing data using blockchain (IBM Watson Health e FDA: blockchain per condividere dati sanitari).

Initially, IBM and FDA intend to apply the system to oncological data, through the mediation of the data owners (ie. patients). Data could be generated by smartwatches, wearable technology in general, Internet of Things devices, tablets and smartphones. For instance users will be able to use AppleHealth, an app designed for the iPhone which helps people to monitor their health and send data to researchers via ResearchKit.

Thanks to blockchain, hospitals could benefit from the use of a global synchronized and shared network with live data updates concerning the hospitalization of patients, regardless of their location. And patients would always keep control of data concerning their health.

What do you think about the use of blockchain in the healthcare system?  I would like to get your comments. Tweet to @agostinellialdo.

If you liked this post, you should read: “Blockchain, the “next big” thing which will revolutionize marketing”.

Aldo Agostinelli