“Today I’m going to talk about blockchain,” stated Agboola at the outset of the closing keynote presentation of the day at the 2018 Technology Innovation in Healthcare Forum held on April 4 in New York. “There’s a lot of confusion out there about what blockchain is. I’ve heard people describe blockchain as available in different varieties—gluten-free, organic, vegan… We’re going to sort through the confusion and talk about how relevant blockchain is to the job you and I do in healthcare,” he said.
“We’re going to start with Blockchain 101. Having a good understanding of blockchain technology is what we, at this stage, need to do. Once you have the background, your imagination can run wild,” he said.
“The basic definition of blockchain is: a continuously growing list of transactions organized in blocks that’s secured using cryptography encryption and linked together. In short, it’s a linked list. Another name for it is distributed-ledger technology (DLT). Blockchain isn’t Bitcoin or cryptocurrency, although Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies run on blockchains,” explained Agboola.
“Having a good understanding of blockchain technology is what we, at this stage, need to do. Once you have the background, your imagination can run wild.”
“A ledger is a form of record-keeping that serves as a source of truth for a transaction. The blockchain is built on the concept of distributing this source of truth. Instead of having one central ledger, document, database, or repository wherein all transactions are logged, that ledger is replicated across a number of nodes. This is the idea of a distributed-ledger system, which is central to understanding what the blockchain does. The blockchain environment is a zero-trust system. Trust is architected into the system.”
Agboola gave a brief history of blockchain, which unofficially began with a whitepaper on a digital payment system and how to avoid the risk of double payments published by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008. The technology had to evolve and several problems had to be addressed before blockchain and cryptocurrencies finally took off in 2017. “This is also when investment in the technology began in earnest. Gartner reported that the most searched-for term last year and during the first three months of this year was ‘blockchain,” he said.
“Blockchain and cryptocurrencies finally took off in 2017. “This is also when investment in the technology began in earnest. Gartner reported that the most searched-for term last year and during the first three months of this year was ‘blockchain.’”
Agboola then summarized how a blockchain is built: “As each transaction occurs, it’s put into a block with other transactions and encrypted to secure it. Each block is connected to the one before it—with a reference to the previous block—and added to the next in an irreversible chain.”
Agboola outlined the three essential elements of any blockchain:
Potential benefits of an enterprise blockchain:
“Blockchain won’t replace electronic health records (EHR), at least not yet. It’s inefficient. However, blockchain will allow us to cross data silos and make access to EHR more efficient,” said Agboola.
Limitations of blockchain include:
Agboola next summarized the enterprise blockchain outlook. “Through 2022, only 10% of enterprises will achieve any radical transformation with the use of blockchain technologies. By 2022, at least one innovative business built on blockchain technology will be worth $10 billion. By 2026, the business value added by blockchain will grow to slightly over $360 billion and then surge to more than $3.1 trillion by 2030.”
In closing, Agboola outlined the steps to get started in implementing blockchain: