Bitcoin at Hospitals

I wonder how many in the hospital IT community and hospital executive community are following what’s happening with Bitcoin. For those not familiar with Bitcoin, here’s a short description of it from wikipedia:

Bitcoin is a software-based online payment system described by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 and introduced as open-source software in 2009. Payments are recorded in a public ledger using its own unit of account, which is also called bitcoin. Payments work peer-to-peer without a central repository or single administrator, which has led the US Treasury to call bitcoin a decentralized virtual currency. Although its status as a currency is disputed, media reports often refer to bitcoin as a cryptocurrency or digital currency.

On a simpler level, bitcoin is an electronic method for paying for something. However, bitcoin acts a lot more like cash than credit cards. Bitcoin is not traceable to an individual similar to how cash is not traceable. It can be given to someone else similar to cash. You have bitcoin wallets on phones where you can store bitcoin and then use it to pay for stuff. Bitcoin is also great since you can pay with bitcoin anywhere in the world and you don’t have to worry about things like exchange rates or credit card transasction fees.

One challenge with bitcoin is that only a few places accept bitcoin. However, that’s changing. A few months ago, the first hotel and casino in Las Vegas started accepting bitcoin. I’ve seen restaurants accepting bitcoin. Conferences have started accepting bitcoin. There are even bitcoin ATMs that are being put up.

Don’t get me wrong, bitcoin still has a long ways to go before you can ubiquitously pay for something with bitcoin the way you can now with cash or credit. However, it’s making good progress and has a lot of potential. With that in mind, I wonder when the first hospital will jump on board the bitcoin wagon. I imagine there are quite a few people who would like to pay their hospital bill with bitcoin which is untraceable. Sometimes people don’t want to share some of the things they get done at hospitals.

I’m certainly not an expert on bitcoin, but I’m interested. So, I thought I’d start the discussion and see what those in the hospital IT community thought of it. Probably the biggest challenge to using bitcoin in hospitals isn’t convincing the IT people that it’s a good idea. It’s convincing the hospital CFO. Until a bunch of patients start requesting bitcoin at their hospital, I don’t imagine many will jump on board. Although, maybe one or two will start as a way to get some PR buzz for their hospital.

What do you think of bitcoin? Should hospitals start accepting bitcoin payments?

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

2 Comments

  • Very interesting. I had heard about this form of virtual currency before, with regard to online purchases, in the venues where Pay Pal is utilized now.

    How would you earn Bitcoin or exchange cash into Bitcoin?

    With regard to Bitcoin being used to minimize exposing medical procedures you are reimbursing for? The EHR holds the procedural documentation. That documentation will include both office visits as well as hospital interactions, admission, testing, outpatient…etc.

    The EHR will always maintain the ongoing patient medical record. One patient – One chart goal. But paying with Bitcoin could be used as a medical procedural price negotiating manipulative.

    When one pays another with cash the transaction is not necessarily traceable for taxation purposes. If the medical provider and/or medical facility minimize the prospect of paying reimbursement taxes, that could work to lower the price.

    I use cash as a negotiating tool with my medical transactions now as well as with other business dealings in order to negotiate and secure a lower price.

    I am interested to see how the Bitcoin progresses and the benefits it provides with pricing.

  • You can “mine” bitcoin, but that’s really competitive now. You can just exchange cash for bitcoin in a number of places.

    I think we will see some advantages to paying with bitcoin similar to the advantages people can get paying with cash. It will just take time for Bitcoin to be more ubiquitous.

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