Blockchain in Healthcare

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.

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.

1 Comment

  • Blockchain, or more inclusively, DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology), has a great role in moving healthcare to a more efficient, effective, and meaningful experience. New algorithms are increasing the scalability of DLT to the point where it can handle from hundreds of thousands to millions of transactions per second. DLT requires three things: a consensus mechanism to order and validate transactions, an immutable database of transactions, and a way to query the database for answers. Healthcare requires additional features such as: privacy controlled by the patient, self-sovereign identity for patients, practitioners, payers, government, etc., and a way to get answers. Such a platform is possible with currently developing technology.

    We are building basis of the controlled DLT database platform that can meet the requirements of healthcare. For many years I’ve promoted the concept of a “Data Custodian”, an entity responsible for management of patient and other data. DLT technology makes this possible. Token tech makes it possible to eliminate certain middlemen. Insurance can be just the issuance of a base amount of tokens (even from the government) that can be “spent” by patients with practitioners of healthcare, with overages advanced from payers for a fee. DLT can remove the siloed, dispersed patient data, providing a “system of record” of all patient events. Self-sovereign identity can solve many problems of patient identification, fraud, and breaches. DLT can provide government oversight to prevent billing and patient fraud saving billions of dollars of misuse. DLT provides the transparency that will reign in the abuse of our healthcare system and the eventual bankruptcy of our country.

    We only need to decide our path.

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