Healthcare is ready to invest in blockchain as new business cases emerge

The technology is "getting closer to its breakout moment," says Deloitte, whose new survey finds healthcare organizations seeing "disruption" on the horizon and preparing to spend accordingly.
By Mike Miliard
01:50 PM
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Healthcare organizations' understanding and appreciation of blockchain has evolved over the past years and more and more health systems are realizing that they need to invest as preparation for its "imminent disruption," according to Deloitte.

For its 2018 Global Blockchain Survey, Deloitte polled more than 1,000 executives worldwide, from across all industries. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of all respondents said their organizations see a "compelling business case" for the use of blockchain, and are planning their tech investments accordingly.

About a third of those execs surveyed said they already had some blockchain system in production, while 41 percent said they planned to rollout a blockchain application over the next 12 months. Almost 40 percent of those polled for the report said their organization would invest $5 million or more in blockchain technology within that time frame.

As for healthcare specifically, more than half (55 percent) of execs said they thought blockchain would be disruptive, and more than 60 think they'll lose competitive advantage if they don't get onboard with the distributed ledger technology.

Deloitte says healthcare organizations are particularly interested in four potential promises from blockchain:

  • Disintermediation. Blockchain could help health systems avoid the need to rely on costly go-betweens such as medical data aggregators, provider data-validation servicers claims clearinghouses and more.
  • Transparency and auditability. Value-based reimbursements, clinical supply chains and other complex transactions could benefit from more openness and efficiency among various stakeholders.
  • Industry collaboration. More efficient information sharing for use cases such as provider credentialing, longitudinal patient records and clinical trials could be enabled by blockchain.
  • New business models. The technology potentially offers new blockchain-based revenue opportunities, and could transform notions of patient data ownership and monetization, according to Deloitte.

Given these potentials, some 63 percent healthcare execs said they plan to invest more more than $1 million in blockchain over the next calendar year.

The report notes a new "level of optimism" across the industry, evidenced by "numerous proof-of-value projects being pursued by the biggest names in the market and by the diversity of consortia that have been formalized. Over the next 12 months, the outcomes from these pursuits will provide tangible evidence of blockchain’s value and provide experience that can help rationalize the ecosystem of consortia to support industry-wide solutions that can transform healthcare."

That said, 44 percent of the U.S.-based execs who responded to the survey also said they think blockchain is "overhyped." But Deloitte's reading of that sentiment is not so much that they believe the technology will be a bust, as that it's "reflective of the shift toward the pragmatists in the blockchain community."

Still, the report makes the case that many C-suite decision-makers "are still struggling to see" that blockchain represents a "fundamental change to their business."

Deloitte researchers concede that "a certain 'blockchain fatigue' is beginning to set in among those who feel its potential has been over-communicated, while its real-world benefits remain elusive."

But they emphasize that, "based on our view of where blockchain is today and, more importantly, it’s likely adoption rate within the next three years, we strongly believe that organizations need to evolve their thinking around the technology."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com