How the technology behind Bitcoin can facilitate trusted data sharing and unlock innovation in healthcare through distributed ledgers.
A major barrier to healthcare innovation is the question of whether industry should be allowed to access patient data. No matter how much governance is in place, and how careful we are with anonymisation, pseudonymisation and aggregation, there always seems to be some argument about how industry should not be trusted, despite the incredible potential for public-private partnerships in this area.
For example, look at how the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust was attacked for its data partnership with Google Deepmind.
Block chain technology could hold the key to this issue. Block chain was invented to enable the cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. Its algorithms mean transactions can be aggregated into blocks and then added to a chain of other blocks (hence ‘block chain’) in a ledger relying on a cryptographic signature.
Bitcoin is only one example of this kind of ledger (others include Ethereum and Ripple), but the focus here is on how to modify the basic block chain approach to incorporate rules, smart contracts, digital signatures and an array of other new tools for a distributed ledger in healthcare.