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Can Bitcoin make your medical records more secure?

Discover why the data encryption technology 'blockchain' could be the safest option for the future of medical records storage

NHS budgets are being squeezed from all angles so how can tech be used to ease the strain? Digital technology is one thing that has been proposed as the NHS’saviour. By embracing digital technologies paperwork will vanish and patients won’t need to leave home for consultations. Patient records can be stored digitally and will be available to any doctor in seconds. But data security is a huge factor in the slow rate of uptake of digital solutions in healthcare. It is now said that there are two types of company in the world, those that know they’ve been hacked and those that have been hacked and don’t yet know it. So how can we expect our confidential medical records to be kept out of the hands of criminals and those who would do us harm?

The answer might be found in the technology of bitcoin. Bitcoin’s media presence of recent years has been founded on its role as a new age currency. While bitcoin has had the headlines it is the ‘blockchain’ technology underpinning it that could be the future of secure electronic medical record (EMR) storage. The blockchain is used by bitcoin as a public ledger in which records of all bitcoin transactions are stored. This ledger is made of blocks of encrypted data. The blocks that make up the blockchain require such a large amount of computer processing power to create them that the records they contain are virtually impossible to tamper with. “The blockchain is globally distributed, always on and permanently recorded.” Each block of encrypted information that is added to the blockchain is associated with an address and this address is private to an individual. The level of privacy and resistance to hacking presents blockchain solutions as a very viable option for the future of EMR storage.

Big business has started to take notice of this data storage advance. Phillips Healthcare is looking into the applications of blockchain technology for healthcare solutions.  While healthcare is some distance from employing blockchain storage technology the world of finance is far closer. As early as 2016 banks will begin to use blockchain technology as a way to secure transactions and remove costly intermediaries. It is without a doubt that a suite of other industries will follow in the coming years. Will the data security advances that bitcoin heralds help the NHS to embrace the digital revolution or will their complexity leave it out in the cold?

Written by Harry P. Y.

15th December 2015

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