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But with all this talk of the possibilities of blockchain in healthcare, it's also important to understand how it will affect other health IT systems. Martha Bennett, principal analyst serving CIOs at Forrester Research, based in Cambridge, Mass., discusses how blockchain in healthcare will affect storage and gives an example of how storage is being used in conjunction with blockchain.
How will blockchain affect storage in healthcare?
Martha Bennett: I would say that health records tend to involve quite large files like image files, you know, X-rays and scans and that sort of thing. They are not really a suitable data type to go onto a sort of standard blockchain simply because if a blockchain is replicated -- that being one of the basic principles, that it's a shared, replicated, distributed system -- then those files are simply too large to replicate around the place. So you would probably have off-chain storage and a hash of the record being stored on-chain. So you can control the access to it and very importantly also see whether anybody has made an attempt to tamper with the record.
You mentioned off-chain storage. Does that mean healthcare organizations would have to buy more storage? Or can they continue to use whatever storage platform they're already using?
Bennett: The detail would depend on precisely what they wish to put in place but it could be their existing storage. For example, the Estonian government ... all of the health records in Estonia are actually secured via blockchain. ... Those records themselves sit in an Oracle database and the blockchain solution is integrated with that Oracle database -- but obviously that is a very specific solution.
Want to brush up on blockchain basics? Check out this "blockchain explained" infographic on our sister site, SearchCIO.com, to see how blockchain works and explore its potential societal impact.
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