The bigger concept behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin is blockchain technology. The blockchain (a chain of transaction blocks) is a public transaction ledger, automatically downloaded and stored digitally in electronic wallet applications; a digital record of all transactions in a certain asset class like bitcoin.
There can be different kinds of blockchains (ledgers) for recording and tracking different kinds of assets. Blockchain health is the idea of using blockchain technology for health-related applications.
At least four principal blockchain health ideas have been articulated so far:
- Blockchain Personal Health Record Storage – Personal health records would be stored and administered via blockchain like a vast electronic EMR system. Taking advantage of the pseudonymous (e.g.; coded to a digital address not a name) nature of blockchain technology, personal health records would be encoded as digital assets and put on the blockchain just like other assets like currency (bitcoin, litecoin, dogecoin, etc.). Users would permission doctors and other parties into their records as needed via their private key. In addition to creating vast repositories of medical health data records, the blockchain could also be a mechanism for quantified self data commons to amass and analyze data for preventive medicine purposes.
- Blockchain Health Research Commons - Health research could be conducted by aggregating personal health records stored on the blockchain. Users may feel more comfortable contributing their personal health data to a public data commons like a blockchain 1) in an encrypted pseudonymous form, and 2) for some amount of remuneration via bitcoin, or different kinds of healthcoin (which could denominate HSA dollars and be spent back into health services). The benefit of storing health data on the blockchain is that it can be analyzed but remain private. DNA.bits is a startup in the blockchain health research space.
- Blockchain Health Document Confirmation Services - Confirming that certain kinds of health information exist like proof-of-insurance, test results, prescriptions, status, condition, treatment, and physician referrals are just a few examples of health document-related services often required. The ‘notary function’ is a standard application envisioned for blockchain technology. This is the digital encoding of all manner of important documents (driver’s license, identity card, passport, home/auto titles, auto insurance, etc.) to the blockchain, which can be verified in seconds with encryption technology as opposed to hours and days with traditional manual technology.
- Doctor Vendor RFP Services – doctors and health practices could bid to supply medical services needed by patient-consumers. Like Uber drivers bid for driver assignments with consumers, doctor practices could bid for hip replacements and other needed health services, at minimum bringing some degree of price transparency and improved efficiency to the health sector. Further, this bidding could be automated via tradenets.