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Breaking It Down – How Blockchain Technology is Revolutionizing the Healthcare Industry


Whether it’s at the consumer or corporate level, if you have any interest in tech at all, then you’re almost guaranteed to have at least heard of blockchain technology, if you aren’t even more familiar with it. It’s most closely associated with cryptocurrencies, but its applications and potential usages extend far beyond that. 

But just what is a blockchain, and how does it work? In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at what a blockchain is and the ways in which it operates. We’ll also how and when blockchain technology is used in the healthcare sector. 

Background: the Development and Adoption of the Blockchain Across the Healthcare Sector

In recent years, blockchain has become a buzz word among tech enthusiasts. It’s most often discussed in the context of cryptocurrency, especially Bitcoin, which is unsurprising, given how massive some cryptocurrencies have become in recent years. You can use cryptocurrencies for online transactions, trade them, and even find online roulettes with crypto possibility nowadays. 

However, this only tells part of the story. David Chaum, the American cryptographer, and computer scientist first conceptualized the blockchain back in the early 1980s. Chaum wrote a dissertation in which he suggested that technology resembling the blockchain could be an impactful way of reducing and otherwise managing the level of risk associated with various financial transactions and storing currency more generally. 

But it wasn’t until 2008 that the first true decentralized blockchain was developed and later deployed. Satoshi Nakamoto, the inventor of Bitcoin, utilized blockchain technology as a means of transferring and storing Bitcoin from one computer to another. 

Following on from Nakamoto’s innovation, blockchain technology became seen as a viable way of storing and transferring information securely across several industries. It’s worth noting here that, while Nakamoto used the words ‘block’ and ‘chain’ when referring to blockchain technology, he didn’t use the term explicitly. Blockchain didn’t really enter the popular technological vernacular until much later, in 2016.

What is a blockchain, anyway? In short, it’s a collection of records, arranged in a list, that are linked by cryptographic hashes. The records in these lists are what are typically referred to as ‘blocks,’ with each block containing important data, including information related to transactions and timestamps. 

Generally speaking, a blockchain is administered using a computer network. There are other ways to manage blockchains, but these are considerably less common. 

Indeed, there is a pretty massive range of ways that blockchain technology can be applied in the real world. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are only the tip of the iceberg; you’ll also find that the blockchain is becoming an increasingly crucial part of the transfer and management of information and data in supply chain management, anti-money laundering and fraud investigations, document sharing technology, and more. 

How is Blockchain Technology Used in the Healthcare Industry? 

One industry where you may be surprised to learn that blockchain technology is used widely is in healthcare. 

After all, it’s something of a stereotype that doctors’ offices and hospitals use administrative software that is, frankly, somewhat outdated, and dysfunctional. While this might be true, it certainly doesn’t tell the full story. Blockchain technology has been adopted wholeheartedly across the healthcare sector, and this is a trend that’s almost guaranteed to continue as time goes on. 

Pharmaceutical Supply Chain

One area of the healthcare industry where blockchain technology represents a fairly natural innovation is in the pharmaceutical supply chain. As mentioned above, blockchains are used widely across various industries as part of their supply chain operations, so it makes sense that this would be the case in the healthcare sphere, too. 

The way in which blockchain technology functions (using ledgers as a means of storing and managing data) make it a fantastic choice for conveying information related to, for instance, the transport and shipping of various medications. Transparency is also a given when operations are carried out this way, which is helpful in case shipments go missing, for example. 

In fact, several pharmaceutical companies have already started using blockchain technology as part of their supply chain management. In such a high-stakes part of the healthcare sphere, it seems almost guaranteed that, given its efficiency and potential for reducing the risk of lost shipments or mismanaged information, blockchain technology will be adopted even more widely into the supply chain. 

Managing Patient Records and Data 

It basically goes without saying that, to do their job as well as possible, physicians need access to as much information regarding their patients as they can get their hands on. Fortunately, blockchain technology represents an efficient, secure, and highly effective form of both storing and transferring patient data from one point of access to another

This is another of the primary ways that the blockchain is already in use in the healthcare sphere. Not only does it make it far simpler for healthcare professionals to access relevant information about their patients, but it also allows said data to be stored and transferred far more securely than other methods.

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