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Bitcoin in healthcare: The value v. security debate

By Patrick Ouellette

- Among the more polarizing topics in IT at the moment is the fluctuating value of the bitcoin. We recently wrote about some of the benefits and risks of the Bitcoin in healthcare on and there has been plenty of action and discussion on the subject since then.

The first bit of (unsurprising) news came out on December 19, when the New York Times reported that Bitcoin’s value had diminished greatly in China since Chinese regulators limited its usage. Though this level of fluctuation may affect Bitcoin investors down the road, The Motley Fool is downright bullish on the long-term Bitcoin value.

Bubbles happen. It’s the nature of the financial beast. Bitcoin’s latest crash looks like a bubble to some and like just desserts to others. As a direct investment, Bitcoin is hard to predict since we just don’t have a lot of financial history for the currency. Looking at the potential though shows immense opportunity. While you may not yield a 1,200% return by investing in the firms that invest in Bitcoin, it still offers a fruitful chance to take advantage of the budding cryptocurrency. The idea here is to keep your eyes above the sensationalism and on the facts that show how much Bitcoin has affected the financial world in such a short time.

Considering there are out-of-network healthcare organizations currently accepting Bitcoin as forms of payment, such as My Doctor Medical Group in San Francisco, what does this mean from a security perspective? Gazzang’s recent security predictions for 2014 suggest that regulators may argue for better Bitcoin governance after they the message through an account-balance hack disrupts global markets.

Bitcoin’s decentralized architecture means that it is the world’s first completely open financial network – and subject to significant risk. Unlike fraudulent credit card charges or bank transactions that are regulated by law, there is no mechanism to recover lost or stolen bitcoins.

However, the security debate is further complicated by the fact that the new encryption technology, Elliptic curve cryptography (ECC), is the private key (a single unsigned 256 bit integer) used to prove ownership of bitcoins. That level of encryption appears to be above average and perhaps more secure than some credit cards, but is it reasonable to trust a payment method that has a roller-coaster value moving in such a volatile manner? It seems as though the “wait and see” approach would be best in healthcare.


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