Blockchain technology has generated considerable buzz in the healthcare industry. Entire conferences have emerged to discuss the topic, including Distributed:Health 2018 where Healthbox participated this past November. Industry giants like Optum, Humana, and Ascension have all signed on to pilot the technology in an effort to tackle some of healthcare’s biggest challenges. But with 2018 racing to a close, what does 2019 have in store for the technology? Read on for three predictions from the Healthbox team.
1. The emphasis will shift to addressing infrastructure and operational challenges rather than interoperability.
In a recent study, HIMSS Analytics surveyed 159 healthcare organizations and found that 61.6% believed one of blockchain’s most compelling use cases is in improving interoperability and the sharing of medical records. Indeed, a multitude of companies have emerged with just such a mission. However, it is critical to remember that this is a very nascent technology whose central tenet of immutability is also one of its potentially most significant drawbacks in healthcare.
Any data placed on a blockchain ledger will remain there in perpetuity; it cannot be deleted. That fact does not square well with an industry rife with privacy and security regulations. Blockchain technology may ultimately play an important role in solving the American healthcare industry’s interoperability challenges but, for the near term, it makes most sense to start by tackling problems that don’t involve Protected Health Information (PHI). In an industry as risk-averse as healthcare, we expect greater emphasis on blockchain technology’s potential role in these areas in 2019.
2. Patients will increasingly recognize the value of their own data, especially genomic data.
Companies like Embleema and Nebula Genomics have emerged to use blockchain technology to help patients do just this. Placing patients in control of their own data is an important goal that should be pursued. However, as Corey Todaro, the Chief Product Officer at Hashed Health emphasizes, there are significant information asymmetries to overcome. The companies buying patient data generally have far more insight into its value than the patients selling it.
Take, for example, the discrepancy between 23andMe’s $199 charge to provide insights into things like a patient’s genetic health risks and LunaDNA’s recent announcement that they will pay patients $21 for their genetic information. Both companies wind up with the patient’s data but which priced it correctly? Blockchain technology is well-suited to power marketplaces like these but the appropriate checks and balances need to be in place to make sure both sides are getting equivalent value; the sooner the better. 2019 is a great time to start tackling these challenges.
3. It’s do-or-die time for blockchain technology in healthcare.
A seemingly ever-increasing number of prestigious healthcare organizations are announcing their intent to pilot blockchain technology to solve any number of problems they face. However, the results of these pilots are much harder to find. Additionally, many of the companies touting their use of blockchain could build a substantially equivalent product using a more traditional technology stack. Many healthcare organizations already view blockchain technology with a degree of skepticism. In order to move beyond that skepticism, the pilots announced in 2017 and 2018 need to start to prove the value and the promise of blockchain-powered technology in 2019.
Will these predictions hold true? Do you have others to share? Join the conversation and Healthbox at the 2019 HIMSS Global Conference & Exhibition in Orlando. The Blockchain Symposium offers a full day of programming on Monday, February 11, and the Blo ckchain Forum is running on Wednesday, February 13. We hope to see you there.