Blockchain – could transform sharing of healthcare data, where everyone can check security and only you can share

November 5, 2015

The blockchain is a machine for creating trust. It allows people who have no particular confidence in each other to collaborate without having to go through a neutral central authority. A helpful analogy is with Napster, the pioneering but illegal “peer-to-peer” file-sharing service that went on line in 1999, providing free access to millions of music tracks. Napster itself was swiftly shut down, but it inspired a host of other peer-to-peer services.

Yet despite its dubious origins, peer-to-peer technology found legitimate uses, powering internet startups such as Skype (for telephony) and Spotify (for music streaming)—and also, as it happens, bitcoin. In essence it is a shared, trusted, public ledger that everyone can inspect, but which no single user controls.

A trusted private ledger removes the need for reconciling each transaction with a counterparty, it is fast and it minimises errors. Santander reckons that it could save banks up to $20 billion a year by 2022. Twenty-five banks have just joined a blockchain startup.

The notion of shared public ledgers may not sound revolutionary or sexy. Neither did double-entry book-keeping or joint-stock companies. Yet, like them, the blockchain is an apparently mundane process that has the potential to transform how people and businesses co-operate, including the sharing of healthcare information without requiring a third party (government or private) to have control.

Bitcoin fanatics are enthralled by the libertarian ideal of a pure, digital currency beyond the reach of any central bank. The real innovation is not the digital coins themselves, but the trust machine that mints them—and which promises much more besides.

Posted in Uncategorised by Douglas Fahlbusch