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John Mann MP: Bitcoin's blockchain technology could have huge impact on how the NHS works

3 min read

Bitcoin poses a series of challenges, but we need to recognise the transformative potential of blockchain writes John Mann MP

Reports have surfaced in recent weeks that the Treasury is moving to regulate Bitcoin, the online cryptocurrency which has grown exponentially in value. Concerns have been raised that the anonymity granted to Bitcoin traders has made it desirable for those dealing in illicit or illegal goods and services.

Treasury Minister Stephen Barclay is negotiating with the European Union on bringing Bitcoin into anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regulation.

Globally, there have been multiple notable critics of Bitcoin.

Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan for example has declared it a “fraud” which appealed only to drug dealers, murderers and those living in failed regimes. Dimon has publicly threatened to fire any JP Morgan trader who deals in Bitcoin, declaring it “stupid” as an investment activity.

The governor of Australia’s Federal Reserve Bank has been sceptical of the potential offered by Bitcoin for a state sponsored cryptocurrency too.

At Wednesday’s Treasury Select Committee hearing, I had the opportunity to question the Governor of the Bank of England on the future regulatory framework for Bitcoin.

The Governor was clear that he did not see a future for the Bank in regulating Bitcoin. He did however talk at length about the work the Bank was doing on the feasibility of Bitcoin.

However, even if you aren’t one of those who have made a small fortune from Bitcoin investment ($100 invested in 2010 would be worth $28.3m today), there are reasons to be positive about the technology which enables Bitcoin. Whilst Bitcoin poses a series of challenges, we need to recognize the transformative potential of the technology that underpins it.

Bitcoin operates through Blockchain technology; the so-called automated distributed ledger. This technology means that each node of the system (i.e. the hardware of each user) stores and retains a copy of all the information currently held on the system and then special keys enable transactions between users. All data is not accessible to every user, but the fact that multiple copies are stored means that the margin for error or dispute is reduced.

The opportunities offered by Blockchain technology therefore has numerous applications which could make day-to-day operations easier.

Two examples demonstrate this point.

On transactions for house purchases, for instance, large amounts of money must be transferred between buyer and seller through third parties with estate agents and lawyers complicating the picture. Blockchain technology could, however, prove a secure way of making such payments which enables far easier and less stressful payments. Carefully regulated and managed, such a system could speed up the stressful and lengthy process of purchasing a home and create transparency in the process.

In our health service, too, Blockchain offers enormous potential. By enabling ambulance workers, paramedics, and A&E staff instant access to medical records updated in real-time, medical care could be carefully targeted to a person’s specific needs. The ability to upload results of scans, blood samples and test results and have them accessed by the next practitioner near-instantly, without the risk of error offers the chance to improve survival rates in emergency care and improve care standards across our health service. It is this kind of technology that could give our dedicated NHS staff an extra vital tool.

So, as politicians move to examine the future framework for Bitcoin regulation, I am urging them to put serious thought and consideration into the massive potential offered by the Blockchain technology behind it.

John Mann is the Labour Member of Parliament for Bassetlaw

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