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Blockchain: The Enabler of HIT 2.0

The HIT world has been buzzing over blockchain and its potential to solve a myriad of the industry’s problems, from interoperability to medication adherence. We recently spoke with three C-suite executives at hospitals and health systems, and all agreed that the technology has a lot of promise, at a time when the industry seems primed for a second wave of innovation.

We see blockchain having promise in two key areas in HIT:

Healthcare Data Privacy & Security

Trust is lacking in healthcare. Our ReviveHealth 11th Annual Trust Index™ revealed that providers don’t trust health plans, health plans don’t trust providers, and consumers are getting caught in the line of fire. Some of the biggest concerns, industry wide, are how to keep sensitive health data secure and how to somehow share that data among stakeholders that simply don’t have much faith in one another. Enter blockchain.

CB Insights offered this assessment of the promises of blockchain in a recent report:

Blockchain technology offers a way for untrusted parties to reach agreement (consensus) on a common digital history. A common digital history is important because digital assets and transactions are in theory easily faked and/or duplicated. Blockchain technology solves this problem without using a trusted intermediary.

In healthcare, untrusted parties need to find a way to securely transfer digital information to one another. CB Insights’ description of blockchain demonstrates that it could be leveraged to create a new data security standard by removing any intermediary for data sharing, creating a single source of truth and an unpreceded level of security by decentralizing responsibility.

Patient Identity

Another topic that arose in all three of our recent conversations with C-suite executives is the need for a patient identity system. We heard anecdotes of providers receiving information on patients they were treating, not trusting that the information was accurate, and as a result, ordering duplicative tests to ensure confidence in diagnosis and treatment. This behavior results in more cost to our healthcare system and doesn’t build patient confidence in the care they are receiving.

IDC Insights predicts in its IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Health Industry 2018 Predictions that by 2020, 20% of healthcare organizations will have moved beyond pilot projects and will be using blockchain for operations management and patient identity. Meanwhile, blockchain consortium Hashed Health is exploring how blockchain can be leveraged for identity purposes in healthcare, even going beyond patient registries and examining areas like patient-generated-data collection and IoT/wearables.

The impact of a centralized (yet decentralized!) patient identification system in the U.S. would be monumental, allowing for substantial cost savings and improved patient safety and care quality.

If you’re an HIT company, it’s time to consider whether blockchain has a place in your product roadmap, in the short- or long-term. Its early use cases in other industries (e.g., Bitcoin) are promising, and at this point it’s a matter of who is going to explore it in HIT, not if it will be explored.

For hospitals and health systems, in addition to the above uses, the potential implications of blockchain technology are countless. With the risk of cyber attacks and data breaches only expected to increase, it’s worth exploring technology solutions that are leveraging cutting-edge technologies like blockchain to combat those risks.

We’ll be closely watching the work of Hashed Health and others in the industry, and are excited about working with clients that are making early commitments to exploring blockchain.

December 28, 2017
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