I’m predicting that one of the hot topics at the HIMSS 2018 Annual conference in 3 weeks is going to be blockchain. I must admit that I’m a little torn on blockchain and what its impact will be on healthcare. I see the potential, but we still have a way to go with the technology. For example, it needs to find a way that it can scale.
Those specific issues aside I had two recent experiences that have me thinking more and more about blockchain and healthcare.
The first came from Jim Tate who shared “Death of the Middleman: Healthcare & Blockchain.” Jim is one of the bright, intelligent, pragmatic people I look to for insights into the industry. He’s got deep experience and understanding of the healthcare machine. So, it always causes me to wake up a little when he’s espousing something like he is with blockchain.
Jim’s comments are really fascinating as far as blockchain having the potential to be revolutionary while other things like 3D Printing, AI, and Cloud being evolutionary or as he calls them “The Next Big Thing.” We could have a discussion about whether these things are, have been, or will be revolutionary, but I agree with Jim Tate the blockchain has much more potential to be revolutionary. That’s exciting. As I dig into it more, I can see some little aha moments for how Blockchain’s distributed nature can change a lot of things. That’s really exciting even though we’re still in the early days. It’s close to when people saw Netscape for the first time. You could see the potential, but there’s still a lot of things that need to be built out and problems to solve.
The other experience I had recently was having lunch with a friend who has dove head first into blockchain ICO (Initial Coin Offering) consulting. Without going into all the details and discussion of ICOs, it was crazy to hear him talk about all the companies that are willing to gain his consulting wisdom and influence (he has a few hundred thousand followers on Twitter) in return for what he called funny money and they’d call coins. On paper, those coins can be worth a lot, but it depends on a lot of things. They could also end up being worth nothing. That’s what makes it all so scary and crazy. I live in Vegas and this feels much crazier than any gamble on the strip. At least on the strip there are clear odds for how much you’re going to lose. With ICOs and other blockchain efforts, it’s anyone’s guess.
The message I got is that we’re entering a different world that’s going to be hard to understand and comprehend if you don’t really dig into it. Could it lead to a blockchain bubble pop similar to what happened with the internet and the dotcom bubble pop? Absolutely. Some are already saying it’s happening now as bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have dropped dramatically in value. While it bears watching, I think the blockchain bubble (which I should note is different than bitcoin or even cryptocurrency) is just starting to grow. I don’t think we’re close to it blowing up.
While this wild speculation is scary for me to consider, this type of wild investment and speculation could be a great thing and some might argue is a necessary part of blockchain maturing. All the crazy investment will hopefully sift the wheat from the tares and better help us understand what’s good and what’s bad with blockchain. It’s a necessary part of its maturation.
What does this mean for healthcare? I’m not sure. I’m still watching and trying to learn as we go like everyone else. On the one hand, it’s exciting but there’s plenty to be feared. I’d love to hear your thoughts on blockchain and healthcare. Will it have an impact for good, bad, or other? Let us hear your thoughts in the comments.