The term blockchain refers to the way it stores transaction data in blocks that are linked to form a chain. This technology is also known as Distributed Ledger Technology. Since every entry is stored as a block on the chain, the length of the chain increases as more transactions are recorded and stored. The digital ledger technology was developed in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto. Since then, distributed ledger technology has proven to be a versatile tool with various applications of for decentralized monetary transactions and data exchange in various industries, such as banking, cyber security, supply chain management, government, and healthcare as it essentially acts as distributed ledgers that record transactions on a common digital platform.
Several stakeholders in healthcare have adopted blockchain for various operations, including maintenance of patient records, while ensuring privacy and security as the records are stored on a network, recruiting patients for trials, and providing transparency and traceability in the supply chain.
Types of Blockchain Technology
It is considered to be one of the most remarkable technological conceptions till date, however, the field is unexplored, and the current extent of application is still regarded as beginning of the forthcoming revolution. Depending on the level of intelligence embedded into a system, (in terms of versatility and performance), it can be classified into multiple types:
Permissionless or Public Blockchain: A public block chain, also referred to as permission-less network, is completely decentralized block chain network where anyone can participate without restrictions.
Permissioned or Private Blockchain: A block chain network that works in a closed network or that is under the control of a single entity, is a private block chain.
Federated or Consortium Blockchain: In a consortium block chain, preset nodes control the consensus processes. It has a validator node that performs transaction initiation, reception, and validation.
Applications of Blockchain Technology
This distributed ledger technology has emerged as a viable option to store / exchange data within various industries by providing end-to-end visibility, streamlining processes, and resolving issues faster. Additional details on the applications of block chain technology across different sectors / industries have been mentioned below:
Energy Management: Block chain allows companies involved in energy management to track energy consumption in a more accurate and efficient manner, by monetizing the data collected on such platforms and validating energy consumption and savings in real-time.
Government: Block chain has demonstrated the potential to help government agencies create / maintain a confidential framework of linked data records obtained from patients. This method is presumed to enhance the security, transparency, and efficiency of government operations, while eliminating the risks associated with corrupt practices.
Education: Block chain-based systems can serve as a notary for maintaining educational records in schools / other educational institutes.
Insurance: The distributed ledger technology is transforming insurance-related processes by speeding up the verification and validation of data.
Healthcare: Blockchain in healthcare provides a faster solution for tracking and authenticating medical shipments / drugs across the supply chain. In addition, clinical trial data can be shared securely over blockchain-enabled platforms / portals.
Banking and Payments: Blockchain has enabled a faster and relatively cheaper way of transferring money in the banking sector.
Real Estate: Block chain enables tracking, transferring property deeds, verifying ownership, ensuring accuracy of documents, and speeding up real-estate related transactions.
Legal: Using the block chain technology, legal documents can be verified, stored, and retrieved securely.
Cybersecurity: The complex structure of a distributed ledger technology network is instrumental in protecting stored data from hackers, thereby, eliminating any possibility of security of such information being compromised.
Pharmaceutical: Using distributed ledger technology, every action of the supply chain for pharmaceutical products can be tracked, assisting to prevent counterfeiting and enabling manufacturers to locate a recalled product in seconds.
Advantages and Limitations of Blockchain
Despite the growing interest of stakeholders across various applications of distributed ledger technology, it is associated with several challenges, including scalability issues, lack of security and cyber-attacks. In order to deal with the aforementioned challenges, organizations have established transparency and privacy to conceal sensitive patient data while allowing access, only when required.
In the last decade, the popularity of distributed ledger technology has invariably grown. Specifically, it has made a considerable impact in the healthcare and financial sectors. Blockchain has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare sector by overcoming the existing challenges. One of the features of blockchain is that it lets organizations establish transparency and privacy, helping to conceal sensitive patient data while enabling access and sharing when necessary. In the future, distributed ledger technology may aid in the provision of personalized, authentic, and reliable clinical trial services by combining up-to-date and secure patient data with other emerging technologies. Considering the fact that blockchain technology is already employed in healthcare and various other industries, additional efforts and initiatives will allow the industries to leverage the full potential of blockchain technology.
In this regard, a number of blockchain startups are paving the way for safe and transparent data storage solutions to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry.