The blockchain is poised to be the next disruptive technology in health care. While the first blockchain technologies were in finance, there is a great deal of excitement over blockchain in health care as regards its multiple utilizations to improve patient care and hospital efficiency. Forbes magazine wrote in March “With Monsoons Of Data, Healthcare’s Salvation Just May Be Blockchain.”
Most hospitals have more questions than answers regarding blockchain. Is it just hype or is it real? How will it disrupt different areas of health care? Will it work with existing systems? And perhaps most importantly — what exactly is the blockchain?
A recent IBM report, “Healthcare Rallies For Blockchain,” reported that in its survey of 200 health care executives:
- 16 percent of health care organizations are targeting a “commercial blockchain solution at scale in 2017.”
- Organizations that are primed for this 2017 commercialization see the greatest benefits in clinical trial records, regulatory compliance and medical records.
- Nine out of 10 survey respondents reported the desire to finance blockchain applications by 2018.
The blockchain’s greatest potential may be in finally enabling the interoperability of electronic medical records (EMRs), replacing the role of the Health Level Seven (HL7) standards and allowing different EMR systems to communicate in real time via its trusted shared ledger technology. This facet of EMRs has gained new momentum since Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Tom Price singled out EMR “interoperability” as a prime focus of his efforts.
Ron Galloway, researcher and chief executive officer, Method Research LLC, Augusta, GA