What do most people think of when they think of blockchain?
Most would think of Bitcoin, or perhaps Ethereum. By now, we all have probably heard of Bitcoin, and most would assume that Bitcoin is synonymous with blockchain. In fact, the blockchain is much larger than Bitcoin or Ethereum.
So what exactly is blockchain? In case you have not read our BolehVPN Beginner’s Guide to the Blockchain, we do encourage to read that article prior to this one.
Let us imagine you have a friend named Jay. We give Jay RM10. Jay uses this RM10 to pay Amy for balloons, because Jay is a party planner. Jay hires Amy, and give her the RM10 for her services. This transaction between Jay and Amy is recorded in a book, or if in modern times, recorded electronically such as in your bank statement.
In our example, the book, also referred to as a ledger is what is keeping track of this transaction. But imagine if this ledge was thrown away or got lost. Could Amy claim that Jay never paid her? Would Jay have any proof otherwise? No, since there is only one copy which is now gone.
This is where blockchain can help. Imagine the ledger situation again, but now there are four copies, and they are stored on computers across the world. These copies continuously interact with each other and communicate. If one copy is altered or destroyed, the other copies persist, creating a ledger that is permanent and inalterable.
Similarly, blockchain technology allows for multiple copies of a ledger to exist simultaneously. The blockchain is only altered when a valid transaction occurs. This valid transaction is then added to the end of the blockchain, creating a permanent record of where the money has been.
But now what about the application of technology in blockchain in finance and healthcare fields?
In finance, money is moved internationally through SWIFT. SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, does not move the actual money, but rather transmits messages between the corresponding banks to allow for your transaction to occur.
The problems however with international wire transfers are that they can take days, are done in wholesale, and they are costly.
But why is this?
Well simply, it is due to risk. Risk is what the banks are trying to avoid. Transferring money overseas carries a lot of risk; including fraud, money laundering, as well as possibly sending money to unlawful organisations.
The blockchain can help with many of these issues. The first, the transaction can be done in a fraction of the time than it can be done with SWIFT. Secondly, the banks can track where the money is going and where the money is coming from.
Why is blockchain a win for healthcare? As the block are impossible to change, you cannot delete or change anything without leaving a trace. This is critical in the case for healthcare data.
Access to data can easily be linked to permission. It could secure health records, clinical trial records and ensure regulatory compliance. And did you know? Estonia already uses blockchain to secure its citizen’s health records in the cloud!
Electronic medical records (EMR) are fantastic as whole although they do present issues. Their purpose is to unite all the hospital networks together and have one form for each patient.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. There are multiple EMRs that exist for one patient and they are siloed into the healthcare networks, in which the patient has originally been within.
If you ever had to change doctors that was in a different healthcare network, you will understand this problem. They either ask you to bring a written copy of your records, or have them fax it to you.
The healthcare industry suffers from an inability to share an exchange information due to complicated agreements between shareholders. The outcome is an inefficient, outdated healthcare payment process that leads to millions in wasted spend resulting from claim errors and disputes.
Well, blockchain can help with this electronic medical record issue. Imagine a world where all parties in a business network have access to the same information. That means there is one version of the truth which is always in sync. Blockchain can synchronise the EMRs across institutions. It is important to know where a change is occurring, because if the patient did not authorise that change, someone could be tampering with their health records
In pharma, the most obvious use of the blockchain is to secure the supply chain. In many developing countries, many counterfeit drugs comprise between 10% and 30% of the total medicines on sale.
Blockchain offers security through transparency. Barcode-tagged drugs could be scanned, and their information entered into secure digital blocks whenever they change hands. Authorised parties at the far end of the supply chain could view this real-time record. This would make it much more difficult for criminal networks to sell their counterfeit drugs on the market.
This is just the beginning. Blockchain will soar in the years to come, and we cannot even begin to imagine its many applications.