Blockchain - the Future of Healthcare

Blockchain – the Future of Healthcare


Anyone who hears the word “blockchain” today is most likely still thinking about cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. This is partly true. Just log in to to make sure of it.

And while trading and value exchange is by far the most well-known application of blockchain technology, the revolutionary approach of decentralized data transaction and security also offers many other opportunities in areas that no one had thought of in this context before. Whether it is the judical system, tax legislation, administration, new options for using blockchain become more and more at the center of public and political interest.

This also gives numerous and special benefits in the sphere of healthcare, benefit that are already being designed and tested today. To understand how this should work, let’s first look at the technical basics of blockchain.

  • Secure data transmission network without central authorities

The blockchain is an expandable list of transaction data that are interconnected using cryptographic procedures. The trick is that the data is verified in a decentralized way by a network of all authorized participants, which makes them practically protected from forgery, and without any central authority. Thus, the blockchain offers completely new opportunities for securely combining relevant information and ensuring its availability to an authorized person at any time. Initially, it does not matter what data we are talking about.

  • Data in healthcare

According to a study by Deloitte, about a third of all data in the world is generated in the healthcare sector. In addition to a large volume, this data is also exchanged and processed by many different entities within the healthcare system, regardless of whether it is data in research, in a hospital, in a doctor’s practice, in a pharmacy or in a health insurance company.

In addition, health-related data is particularly sensitive and therefore needs additional protection against loss or misuse. For example, this factor was manifested not least during the public discussion of the warning application “Corona”. After data protection lawyers sharply criticized the centralized storage of location data, the technological approach underlying the tracking application was radically revised and replaced with a decentralized concept in which risk contacts are checked only directly on users’ smartphones, but not on central servers.

The universally positive feedback on the secure and data-saving decentralized approach of the Corona warning application shows the direction in which data structures in the healthcare sector will inevitably evolve in the future. Blockchain is a further logical step that can guarantee a new level of data security and compatibility thanks to cryptographic encryption and decentralized verification by authorized network participants.

Areas of blockchain application in the healthcare sector

Specifically, there are many ways in which blockchain can make various medical information safer and more efficient for processing in the future. Thus, currently hospitals often keep manual lists for quality management. Instead, incoming goods, inventory management, or medicines with patient distribution can be processed as data blocks and stored on the blockchain. The big advantage is not only that digital data processing saves a huge amount of time and makes tedious documentation obsolete. Data encryption and their immutability also significantly reduce the risk of abuse and errors, which in this case can even save human lives.

Health insurance companies could also use blockchain to more effectively manage bonus programs in which insured persons participate in preventive campaigns. This means that health insurance companies can register and verify the activities of their insured persons related to bonuses with significantly less effort. In addition, blockchain can increase the transparency of this process and complicate data manipulation. Similar advantages are associated, for example, with the issuance of medicines and prescriptions, where the blockchain can also stop attempts at forgery and fraud and increase interoperability between all participants.

  • Blockchain-based Medical Card

Although there are many potential examples of the use of decentralized technologies, such as blockchain, in the healthcare sector, there are currently no concrete examples of their application on a large scale. However, the Berlin-based digital agency Turbine Kreuzberg has tried to figure out how this technology can be consistently applied to health data. In response to the entry into force on January 1, 2021 of the electronic patient card, which is based on an outdated telematics infrastructure (TI) with centralized data storage, the agency has developed a blockchain-based approach that can make the ePa promising.

The so-called decentralized Electronic Patient Card (DePA) relies on two widely used decentralized key technologies that play a role in almost all Web3 applications: Ethereum and IPFS. The purpose of a decentralized patient file is to give each person sovereignty over their medical data. They decide for themselves who and for what purpose to entrust access to the medical history. The data itself is always stored and transmitted in encrypted form using blockchain technology.

Lessons for the future

The patient’s electronic card, which is about to be introduced, is currently being heavily criticized for the lack of data protection. Even the EU Federal Data Protection Commissioner Ulrich Kelber recently announced that millions of insured persons will be informed about the data protection risks associated with telematics infrastructure with a written warning. Here it becomes clear once again how important it is to rely on advanced and secure technologies for future processing of medical data.

At the same time, however, there is still a great need for education about new technological opportunities. Because until now, doctors, health insurance companies, pharmacies, laboratories or medical staff have not yet had contact with the blockchain ecosystem. Thus, in order to ensure their early testing and subsequent implementation, it is necessary not only to continue the technological development of use cases. First of all, it is necessary to emphasize their advantages in terms of data protection and interoperability and make them understandable to all participants and decision makers in the healthcare system.

Therefore, politicians and the healthcare industry are equally called upon to participate more actively in the development of new technologies and to stimulate the development of concrete examples of their use. The experience gained in this way will help ensure the future viability of our healthcare system.