Why Blockchain Technology is Important for
Thomas F Heston MD FAAFP
July 20, 2017
Abstract. Blockchain technology is a system of creating an immutable,
secure, distributed database of transactions. Blockchains were initially
created to provide a distributed ledger of financial transactions that did not
rely upon a central bank, credit company, or other financial institution.
The technological breakthrough, however, has been extended to
transactions involving legal matters, medical records, insurance billing,
and smart contracts. One primary way that blockchain technology is
important to healthcare professionals in that it can revolutionize medical
database interoperability. This greater interoperability can help improve
access to medical records, imaging archives, prescription databases. Given
that a patient’s medical history is a primary cornerstone of good medicine,
blockchain technology has the potential to dramatically improve medical
Blockchain technology is a system of ensuring a secure, tamper-proof, and permanent record of
transactions. The fundamental idea of a distributed secure ledger was invented in 2008 by
Satoshi Nakamoto (1). Initially, the technology created bitcoin, which verifies financial
transactions without the requirement for a central authority, the federal reserve, a central bank, or
other financial institution. Because the method of transaction verification involves a network of
computers, rather than a single computer, it is very fault-tolerant. Any single computer can be
added or removed from the network at any time without corrupting the ledger of transactions.
Because the ledger is duplicated across all network computers, transactions are secure and
immutable. A key feature of blockchain technology is that it is trust-less: transactions are
processed by the network so there is no need to trust a single computer, database, or institution.
The initial blockchain created bitcoin, which consists of a secure, immutable, distributed
database of financial transactions. However, the technology has also been extended to create a
system of secure, immutable, distributed computer programs allowing the creation of smart
contracts and artificial intelligence (2).