Blockchain's Potential Use Cases for Healthcare: Hype or Reality?

Mike Miliard | Healthcare IT News | February 22, 2017

The technology's implications for interoperability, privacy, claims processing and more are intriguing. But many challenges must be addressed before wider applications become possible.

At HIMSS17 on Wednesday, IEEE Computer Society and the Personal Connected Health Alliance hosted a day-long event focused on the potentially transformative promise of an intriguing innovation: Blockchain. Kicking off the symposium, "Blockchain in Healthcare: A Rock Stars of Technology Event," Tamara StClaire, previous chief innovation officer at Conduent Health (formerly known as Xerox Healthcare), made the case that the bitcoin-derived secure digital ledger technology could just maybe offer the answer to an array of vexing healthcare challenges – not least of which is interoperability.

"The current infrastructure is really inadequate to handle information exchange," she said. "Blockchain has the opportunity to impact those infrastructure challenges." StClaire said she was skeptical at first. And she's hardly the only one. Blockchain is just about at the "peak of inflated expectations" on the most recent edition of the Gartner Hype Cycle.

Nonetheless, "there's a lot of movement there," she said, pointing to two recent studies from IBM and Deloitte. The first showed that 16 percent of payer and provider executives expect to have a commercial blockchain application at scale in 2017. The other found that healthcare and life sciences plan the most aggressive deployments of blockchain across all industries, with 35 percent of respondents saying their company plans to deploy it within the next year. "Despite Gartner's caution, a lot of people believe there's going to be momentum and acceleration," said StClaire. It could "impact almost every healthcare transaction" and "has a global ability to change the way we think"...