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Blockchains in the dental industry

25 July 2018

Blockchains in the dental industry

In today’s age, where the power of information is unparalleled and the validity of information needs to be substantiated, we as people must also be held accountable for the misuse of information. Blockchains solve these problems by creating a digital ecosystem which self-audits every transaction that occurs. These transactions are called “blocks". The ecosystem has two significant features which are security and transparency.

Blockchains are very secure since the information inside them can only be altered after solving complex cryptographic mathematics. The cryptographic maths is nearly impossible to hack because the hacker is required to overpower and hack 51% of the computer nodes that are running the ledger at the same time. Realistically, this would require an incredible amount of computer power and resources.

Block chain technology can be thought of as a spreadsheet where anyone with access to the internet can view it. They can view every transaction that has occurred but not alter it. This makes blockchains decentralized because there is no middle man to keep the records; instead the records are kept by the internet.

Blockchains started with bitcoins

The blockchain is the main technological innovation of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. In 2008, an individual going by the name Satoshi Nakamoto implemented the first blockchain in Bitcoin. Bitcoin isn’t regulated by a central authority, instead the users dictate and validate transactions when one person pays another for goods and services, eliminating the need for a third party to process or store payments. The complete transaction is publically recorded into blocks, eventually leading to the blockchain, where it is verified and relayed by other Bitcoin users.

Based on the Bitcoin procedure, a blockchain database is shared by all nodes that are a part of the system. After joining the network, each connected computer receives a copy of the blockchain, which contains records and is used as proof for every transaction ever executed. It can therefore provide insight about facts like how much value belonged to a particular address at any point in the past.

Uses in dentistry

Outside of cryptocurrency, blockchains have found their place in a variety of areas including healthcare, supply chain management, real estate, government, car industries, and many more. Blockchains can make any institution or industry that requires some type of record keeping more efficient, transparent, and secure. In the field of dentistry, blockchains can create a decentralized system which can track patient details, treatment history and payments made for all clinics. This eliminates the need to fill in an application for each visit to the clinic and it’s easier for patients to track their records. It is also more economical protocol for the clinics.

The Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare has stated: “While dental providers continue to file more insurance claims electronically and submit claims electronically, adoption of electronic clinical processes by dental providers remains low, even though eliminating costly manual transactions represents huge potential cost savings. For example, the cost to submit manual claims is $6.63 x 6,200 (6,200 is based on an average of claims submitted for a single provider), which equals $41,106 per year.”

By implementing blockchains into their databases, the dental industry will be saving money on manpower and the costs of keeping physical records. They will also benefit from blockchains being unchangeable meaning that no false claims can be made. This is a very crucial aspect of implementing blockchains. A study from NCBI by Dr. Charangowda stated: “A thorough knowledge of dental records is essential for the practicing dentist, as it not only has a forensic application, but also a legal implication with respect to insurance and consumerism.”

Ian Khan of TEDX summed up the potential for wider adoption of blockchains in the future by saying: “As revolutionary as it sounds, blockchain truly is a mechanism to bring everyone to the highest degree of accountability. No more missed transactions, human or machine errors, or even an exchange that was not done with the consent of the parties involved.”

References

BlockChain Technology Will Revolutionize Dentistry - 247 Labs. (2018). Retrieved from https://247labs.com/blog/blockchain-technology-will-revolutionize/

Prableen Bajpai, C. (2018). Blockchain. Retrieved from https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/blockchain.asp

The great chain of being sure about things. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/briefing/2015/10/31/the-great-chain-of-being-sure-about-things

 

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