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What can healthcare learn from Bitcoin?

Bitcoin has constantly been in the business news lately. What with its rising value, ongoing authentications as a worthwhile investment, and even the odd publicity by the likes of Elon Musk? The value of Bitcoin has even been compared to the value of the world’s most precious metal, gold. To the ordinary person, Bitcoin and healthcare are worlds apart. But look closer and you will find many connections that can link the two.

While this column isn’t about technology, no service industry (healthcare included), can escape the ever evolving technological solutions to prevailing business circumstances. And that’s where the link between Bitcoin and healthcare comes in. Bitcoin is upending the way we conduct financial transactions. Security and privacy are at its core. Then there is convenience, ease of transactions and either very low or zero transaction fees. The traditional middle man (or woman) is cut out of the process, hence the seamless nature of transactions.

But what’s really at the core of Bitcoin? As with any big tech, Bitcoin is solely driven by software. It basically refreshed the management of databases, and applied this to fintech. In a very simplistic explanation, Bitcoin transactions are securely decentralized databases of financial records, made immutable by open source code, commonly known as blockchain. Anyone with an internet connection can transact with anyone else wherever, so long as they have some cryptocurrency coins.

Healthcare is in the business of both physical and virtual transactions with patients. But much of healthcare delivery remains within the eons of analogue technology. Granted, there has been accelerated adoption of health tech in the last few years. But there have always been issues with wider adoption for various reasons. Part of the reasons have been matters to do with vulnerability to hackers, and subsequent breaches of private and confidential data. There are many health tech solutions out there, but the superiority of blockchain technology is yet to be fully exploited in healthcare.

Aping Bitcoin for healthcare applications has obvious advantages. Blockchain technology adoption in healthcare should be a breeze. The technology somewhat lessens worries about hacking. Highly encrypted private and public access codes, as popularized by Bitcoin, almost negate unauthorized access to stored data. And any access leaves a time stamp. Archived data cannot be altered, which helps with medical-legal cases. Linkage with health insurance, or even direct cryptocurrency payments for services can be inbuilt within the databases. Literally every facet of healthcare can be streamlined with Bitcoin’s blockchain technology.

Some healthcare companies have already adopted the technology in North America. Other service industries too have not been left behind, including the food industry and even governmental agencies. Early adoptees are already reaping ample rewards from the Bitcoin technology. Healthcare can too, helping to get rid of archaic systems that are riddled with inefficiencies.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist.

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