Soon after its development as the underlying architecture for Bitcoin, the concept of the blockchain was recognized as having broader value beyond enabling a decentralized alternative form of currency. For example, some organizations are beginning to use blockchain to apply advanced analytics from distributed sources without compromising the privacy of individuals.
We are now seeing a rapid expansion of blockchain-based technology offerings, many of them in the Healthcare and Pharma/Biotech spaces. A November 2017 article in Forbes, This Is Why Blockchains Will Transform Healthcare, considered some of the latest developments. Though still in the early days and, despite an enormous amount of interest, most of these value propositions remain little more than prototypes. However, the rate of evolution is surprisingly fast, and the time is right to review some of the emerging use cases and consider where things may lead.
First, what is blockchain? In a nutshell, it is a log of transactions that is replicated and distributed across multiple decentralized locations: As such, it offers a secure, high integrity, “neutral” 3rd party mechanism for knowing what data is where and precisely how it is changing over time. Blockchain is not a magic bullet that solves all data management problems but few areas of data sharing cry out more for improvements in efficiency and security than the data domains of Healthcare and Pharma/Biotech.