There has been much talk about the potential for cryptocurrencies in healthcare.
Healthcare records (EHR) suffer from fragmentation, proprietary silos, and difficulty in locating and recalling relevant information in general. When it comes to healthcare decision making, the availability of healthcare records can, at the extreme, decide life or death. They are at the very least a quality of life issue, and an economic issue in terms of wasted time and needless repeated tests and diagnoses. It is therefore a large and important economic and social issue that healthcare records be easier to access and made more complete... while also private and only disclosed to relevant parties. But how?
Cryptocurrencies, at this point in history mainly Bitcoin but now also Ethereum and other coins, have rocked the financial world with exciting possibilities. They have also made speculative inroads into other industries as the full implications of the distributed ledger behind most cryptocurrencies, blockchain, have been considered. The problem is that first gen crypto suffers from a number of limitations. It doesn’t scale well. It’s slow. There is congestion and resource contention to get transactions approved. It requires fees in terms of miners confirming transactions. These and other issues have limited the potential for the distributed ledger.
But now in 2017, about 8 years into Bitcoin, we can begin to talk about third generation crypto (second gen is considered to be Ethereum's smart contracts). There are many examples, the area is teeming with growth and new developments. One example doesn’t even use blockchain, it uses something called the Tangle: IOTA. Originally (and still) intended for the emerging Internet-of-things (IoT) economy, IOTA starts with the assumption that low power devices can’t do the hefty proof of work (POW) that blockchain requires for transactional integrity.
IOTA’s design gives it some intriguing characteristics that make it interesting beyond IoT. An increase in transaction rate doesn’t slow the Tangle down, in fact it speeds it up because transactions require the confirmation of other transactions. No more fees: there are no miners in the distributed ledger technology (DLT) of the Tangle. Bottlenecks, slowdowns, congestion, and scaling issues are not completely done away with, but loom as speed bumps in the growth of the technology rather than fatal flaws of the underling technology like with blockchain. Speedy micro transactions become truly possible.
And since the Tangle is just as much of a distributed ledger as blockchain, now we can begin to implement some of the exciting possibilities for distributed ledger in healthcare. With IOTA.