Blockchain might not be the newest kid on the IT block but its growing appeal as a potential framework for secure data sharing across the healthcare spectrum signifies a new wave of interest among technology strategists. And this is being driven by a range of pilots and research initiatives now bearing fruit around the globe.

The quest for technology that solves the perennial need in healthcare for a secure, collaborative information exchange model, cutting through the age-old challenges of interoperability and accessibility, has been long and fraught. But the potential of blockchain as a viable proposition for the management of decentralised healthcare data is rapidly gaining momentum across the sector, despite early nervousness about its enabling role in the rise of controversial cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.

In simple terms, blockchain is a distributed database for recording and storing transaction records among groups of peers who share the responsibility for authorising and validating each transaction. Essentially, it is a cloud-based transaction ledger, with records held and distributed across the networks of all participants. Each interaction must be verified by the data ‘miners’ before the information is verified, enabling trustless collaboration and the creation of a comprehensive audit trail. Transactions are time-stamped and signed using private encryption keys.

View in full - Will healthcare IT go blockchain

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