Bringing Scientific Rigor to Medical Research Using Blockchain TechnologyMay 4, 2020
Blockchain technology applied to medical research can improve trust in science by creating an unchangeable, time stamped record of the research findings. Blockchain technology, invented by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008, ensures that transactions entered into a ledger cannot be changed with time. As applied to the cryptocurrency bitcoin (BTC), the result is a monetary system that, cannot be manipulated by a centralized government because it creates a permanent and accurate record of all transactions. The strength of the system comes from its use of a distributed database as compared to current monetary systems that require a centralized database such as is used by credit card companies and banks. Applying this same technology to medical research increases trust in the results because just like bitcoin, the transactions (scientific data collected) are permanently archived in an unchangeable, immutable manner.
The exchange of money, just like the conduct of medical research, requires a high level of trust. Money in the past has generated this trust through government regulations and central bank oversight. Medical research in the past has attempted to create high levels of trust through peer review conducted by reputable medical journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine. Both methods of generating trust rely on a trusted central authority, either the government or a medical journal. As such, both methods are highly susceptible to fraud via corruption or innocent errors of the centralized authority. This has led to widespread distrust in medical research. Bitcoin operates differently, because it sets up a method of relying on a distributed network based upon a mathematical algorithm, rather than centralized authority susceptible to human error.
Financial transactions require perhaps the highest level of trust. People need to know that all transactions recorded in the ledger be entirely accurate and totally resistant to being changed in the future. Because blockchain technology as implemented in bitcoin has earned this trust, bitcoin has become a widely used store of value with a market capitalization of over $100 billion USD. When other cryptocurrencies are considered, the total trust in blockchain based financial systems exceeds $250 billion USD. Similarly, health care professionals need to be able to trust that data obtained from medical research is both completely accurate and completely immutable. Physicians need to know that medical research isn’t plagiarized or fraudulent in any way. Blockchain technology has made bitcoin a trusted, global currency. In the same way, blockchain based medical research will greatly increase trust in the results and as a result, improved medical care.