Applications in Health Care
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Blockchain technology has gained substantial attention in recent years with increased interest in several diverse fields, including the healthcare industry. Blockchain offers a secure, distributed database that can operate without a central authority or administrator. Blockchain uses a distributed, peer-to-peer network to make a continuous, growing list of ordered records called blocks to form a digital ledger. Each transaction, represented in a cryptographically signed block, is then automatically validated by the network itself. Blockchain has also garnered interest as a platform to improve the authenticity and transparency of healthcare data through many use cases, from maintaining permissions in electronic health records (EHR) to streamlining claims processing. In this article, we describe the basics of blockchain and illustrate current and future applications of this technology within the healthcare industry.
Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency and payment system first introduced in 2008, is one of the most well-known implementations of blockchain.1 The transfer of digital assets, such as bitcoin, within a blockchain is initiated when a seller or payer submits a transaction (Figure [A]).2 These transactions are broadcasted to every peer connected to the blockchain network where clients, called miners, use a cryptographic algorithm to validate the transaction. This validation solves 2 key problems that previously existed with digital currency exchange: ensuring that the digital asset exists and that it has not already been spent. A transaction is said to be valid if a miner deems it is well formed (the input and output contain only the fields that are defined in the protocol), and the outputs it attempts to transfer exist. Miners are not certified and can be anyone who volunteers to invest their resources. The incentive for miners comes in the form of the bitcoin, which are generated and rewarded to the miners for every block of transactions validated. …