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Blockchain. A day doesn’t seem to go by without seeing articles and discussions about the technology
By: Ed Featherston
Oct. 1, 2017 04:00 PM
Why Is the Healthcare Industry Abuzz About Blockchain?
Blockchain. A day doesn't seem to go by without seeing articles and discussions about the technology. According to PwC executive Seamus Cushley, approximately $1.4B has been invested in blockchain just last year. In Gartner's recent hype cycle for emerging technologies, blockchain is approaching the peak. It is considered by Gartner as one of the ‘Key platform-enabling technologies to track.' While there is a lot of ‘hype vs reality' discussions going on, there is no arguing that blockchain is being taken very seriously across industries and cannot be ignored.
A large percentage of the discussion does seem to focus in the financial services industry. This is not surprising given blockchain's historic legacy (I know, a disruptive technology already has a legacy) with Bitcoin and crypto currencies. In my article, last year, Blockchain - Its So Much More Than Bitcoin, I discussed that while given that legacy, there are so many other potential areas and use cases outside that arena. Yes, the financial services industry is investing heavily in research on blockchain, as it could have fundamental impact on how they do business. Even given that, the potential use cases for the technology outside that industry are what I find much more interesting. One vertical that is particularly intriguing is healthcare.
The business challenge in the healthcare industry
EHRs have been a topic of conversation and goal in the healthcare industry for over a decade. Conceptually it sounds simple enough. A consolidated medical history of a patient that ‘may include all of the key administrative clinical data relevant to that persons care under a particular provider, including demographics, progress notes, problems, medications, vital signs, past medical history, immunizations, laboratory data and radiology reports.' (Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services). The challenge is this information comes from a variety of sources, providers, laboratories, hospitals each with their own patient records systems. Add to that complexity, ownership, HIPPA regulations on access control and sharing of the information, trust between systems, and the associated costs of storage and replication of potentially huge volumes of data and you begin to appreciate why 10 years later, the industry is still struggling with EHR.
This has happened before, it will happen again
Blockchain to the rescue?
We have miles to go, and promises to keep
Are we there yet? No. Using blockchain to help solve some of the challenges in the healthcare industry still has a long way to go to being a viable, productive solution. Even so, there is a lot of potential and bears watching as it progresses. As technologists, we always have a responsibility to help business and industry solve their business challenges, identifying the tools that can help achieve those goals. We should never fall victim to ‘shiny toy' syndrome. Blockchain is a tool in the toolbox. I for one am happy to have it available, and look forward to seeing the benefits it can bring to solving business problems and challenges.
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