How Health Care Is Moving Toward Blockchain

Although individuals on different sides of the political spectrum are likely to disagree about what's to be done to fix the U.S. health care system, few would likely dispute that the sector is in rough shape at this point.

To be sure, fixing health care is a process that's sure to be lengthy and to involve many factions within the business, science, and political worlds. Still, even as debates have raged about large-scale issues with the industry, technological advances have helped to increase efficiency in small but important ways: New software allows for the safer, faster transmission and storage of health records by providers, for instance.

On the other hand, it's no secret that many parts of the health care industry are mired in technology and practices that could only be described as outdated. Pagers and fax machines come to mind. A 2020 report found that 83% of medical imaging devices were running on unsupported operating systems that left organizations vulnerable to cyberattacks. This can not only cost the industry money but can jeopardize the care and livelihood of patients. Given these issues, there are new signs emerging that the health care space may be primed to take advantage of blockchain technology, popular in the cryptocurrency space but not yet in the mainstream business world.

How Could Blockchain Help?

John Halamka, chief information officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, explained that patient data often is scattered across different facilities, making it difficult to access at crucial times. Blockchain technology could revolutionize the way that health data is stored and transmitted. Indeed, given that it sports an ultra-secure cryptographic database and shared ledger to provide speedy and easy communication, blockchain tech may be just the solution for the industry.

With blockchain, health care systems could store medical records confidentially, updating patient data across multiple facilities and locations in real time and with security. This would free up time and resources in health facilities to be further dedicated toward patient care and innovation, rather than administration.

Blockchain Solutions Already in Play

Several companies have already made use of blockchain in an effort to enhance health care. None of these operations has taken off on a national scale as of yet, but they signal interest within the industry, as well as a theoretical openness to new technology.

Hashed Health is one such company. Utilizing blockchain, Hashed Health generates a free and open community for health care professionals to discuss and partner in an effort to explore blockchain's uses in the industry. The company also provides an advisory branch to help health care organizations understand how blockchain can be integrated into existing systems. Finally, the company has a lab that aims to develop new blockchain tech solutions to problems that have plagued the health care industry.

MedRec is another blockchain-focused company in the health care space. MedRec operates a transparent peer-to-peer ledger that allows providers to track files and information seamlessly. The service allows for easier direct communication with patients, too. Clinicians, facilities and large-scale systems are connected on a single platform, allowing for the most efficient transmission of information possible.

DYNOSTICS is a third such company. Catering toward individual users, DYNOSTICS helps individuals to determine their current state of fitness, providing instantaneous feedback and a single location for all data. Like both of the other companies above, DYNOSTICS is focused on data security and privacy.

To be sure, there are other companies looking to revolutionize health care through blockchain, as well. Will any of these operations succeed in transforming the staid and, in many cases, problematic practices of the industry? That remains to be seen. However, the fact that companies within the blockchain space are making aggressive bids to attempt these solutions can be seen as a good sign of progress to come.

Investing in cryptocurrencies and Initial Coin Offerings ("ICOs") is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or ICOs. Since each individual's situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions. Investopedia makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein. As of the date this article was written, the author owns bitcoin and ripple. 

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Palo Alto Networks. "2020 Unit 42 IoT Threat Report."

  2. Athena Health Care. "Blockchain, Meet Healthcare."

Take the Next Step to Invest
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.