CHICAGO—Blockchain is a hot topic in technology. Usually, it’s for a peer-to-peer payment system using cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin. According to speakers for Blockchain: The Next Revolution in Health Care, a session at the 2018 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting, this technology may play a role in the future of medicine, creating a more efficient way to purchase drugs and share data.
Explore this issueJanuary 2019
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“What is blockchain? It’s a distributed ledger that everyone has a copy of. It’s transparent, so a ledger that everyone sees. It’s secure and hasn’t been hacked yet. It’s auditable, so everyone can see what’s occurred in the database. It’s democratic and decentralized,” said Anh L. Ngo, MD, MBA, instructor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, Boston. “The data are verified and utilize cryptography, a level of encryption.”
A blockchain is a chain of blocks or collections of data. Each user may add data to the blockchain, but data are very difficult to change. Each piece of information is time stamped, has unique hashtags and proof-of-work identifiers, and is distributed for group consensus, said Dr. Ngo. Changed data carry a hashtag for the previous form of the information. In cryptocurrency, a block contains information on the money’s sender, receiver and amount.
“Tampering with something on the block changes the hash, and it’s no longer the same block,” Dr. Ngo said. “This [feature] makes the blockchain secure.”