Big things ahead for blockchain in healthcare, new report shows

Advice for hospitals: Making inroads on blockchain now, with smaller projects that don't involve patient data, can help prepare them for larger opportunities ahead.
By Benjamin Harris
02:25 PM
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Blockchain is poised to go big in healthcare soon, according to a new study from CB Insights. The cryptographic digital ledger technology is highly secure and resilient, and while industries such as banking or retail are bullish on it, and already building on it in myriad ways, CBI finds that "still very early days for blockchain and healthcare applications."

Making inroads on blockchain now with smaller projects that do not involve patient data can help prepare healthcare organizations for larger blockchain tasks while adding value in the short time by cutting costs and streamlining data.

WHY IT MATTERS
Blockchain is emerging as what could soon be a must-have technology in the healthcare space, with numerous exciting potiential use cases – applications ranging from credentialing of practitioners to data sharing to supply chain management. Because of its robust privacy design and interoperability, it can apply to a wide range of healthcare needs.

In any application where "accessing complex data from different entities" occurs, CBI says blockchain is able to provide a consistent and standard chain of ownership and access to data. Properly implemented, it has potential for "tracking where a patient is, and what procedures/tests they’ve had" in a secure and scalable manner.

THE LARGER TREND
More and more healthcare execs are expressing interest in Blockchain technology. CBI finds that money is rushing into blockchain right now, and that while it’s surging across some industries, healthcare isn’t quite among them yet.

Still, it notes that patents for healthcare applications that mention either "blockchain" or "distributed ledger" have also begun to tick upward," and many across the industry see the new technology as a necessary step towards interoperability and are excited at the prospecte of "removing significant friction in today’s transactional processes."

ON THE RECORD
"Blockchain could help solve some of the industry’s most pressing compliance, interoperability, and data security issues, as well as enable new patient-centric business models," according to the report. "But unlocking blockchain’s potential for healthcare will be a slow process, and change is unlikely to come fast."

Researchers noted that as the blockchain ecosystem is built out, "there will be increasingly more opportunity to deploy blockchain applications. However, there are also merits to centralization as well, including speed, privacy, and more. Knowing when to opt for centralization vs. decentralization will be key.”