I don’t know about you, but I first heard about blockchain in reference to cryptocurrency, and I kept an inaccurate notion that blockchain was just for cryptos. I didn’t think that blockchain tech had any sort of usage outside the role it plays with Bitcoin, but it wasn’t until a short while ago that I learned how useful blockchain can be in other industries.
Healthcare, in particular, is an industry slated to see huge changes from blockchain, although it’ll be a while until then.
The Hype Train
Cryptocurrency and blockchain are being hyped up as these things that will solve everything giving a sense of deja vu to those familiar with the dot com bubble. Many companies have invested billions into blockchain technology and even social media site LinkedIn listed “blockchain” as its top in-demand “hard skills”.
Many have touted blockchain to be this “transformative technology” and while many are skeptical about this, in healthcare it’s slated to change a lot.
Healthcare is in need of a major cybersecurity upgrade. HealthITSecurity.com, a website that reports on cybersecurity news within the healthcare industry stated that millions of patients have been affected by data breaches done by hackers with the largest being the Blackbaud ransomware attack where data was stolen from donors, patients, community members, and many more.
As a result of this massive attack, Blackbaud is currently being sued by the victims of that data breach.
The reason healthcare providers and the like are susceptible to cyberattacks is because many continue to use outdated and unsupported software. According to a study by Palo Alto Network, a multinational cybersecurity company, more than 83% of devices in the healthcare industry run outdated and i\unsecure operating systems with 56% still running Windows 7.
Blockchain’s security is well known to be difficult to hack and very secure; it has to be with the vast amounts of money a blockchain has to protect, but there’s another problem.
Co-founder of Ehereum Vitalik Buterin has put forth the idea of the “blockchain trilemma” which describes the impossibility of a blockchain having all three of the following aspects: decentralization, security, and scalability. Decentralization refers to the blockchain not being controlled by one power, but rather the users; security refers to a blockchain’s defense against an attack, and scalability refers to how large a network can grow and the limit of people in a single chain.
According to Buterin and his idea, a blockchain cannot have all three; one must be sacrificed for the other two.
Costs and Regulations
Blockchain implementation will undoubtedly save a ton of money in the long run (BIS research suggests up to $100 billion over an eight-year period), but blockchain technology is still in the early stages and working out the kinks. Plus, there are a lot of strict regulations in healthcare that will make full implementation costly and time-consuming.
Despite the challenges, blockchain can better protect patient data and streamline the process.
The blockchain-healthcare revolution isn’t here yet, but I have no doubt that one-day blockchain will be implemented in healthcare.