3 key areas of healthcare that could improve with blockchain technology

Chuck DeVries, vice president of strategic technology and enterprise architecture at healthcare performance improvement company Vizient in Irving, Texas, shares what he thinks health IT leaders need to know about blockchain.

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: Where is blockchain in healthcare now and how will it develop in 2019?

Chuck DeVries: There are not many live blockchain uses in healthcare currently; however, there are several organizations piloting it, including Vizient. The viability and applicability are still being tested, and 2019 will be critical for that exploration. We expect to begin to see some of these going into early real use this year.

Q: What do you think will be the most significant blockchain applications in healthcare over the next five years?

CD: Transaction processing — with the necessary contracting, data management, price matching between hospital-distributor and group purchasing organization-supplier, purchase order processing, confirmations and invoicing-payment — is ripe for improvement. It requires significant cooperation today, and most organizations stumble at many points in that process. Blockchain may be a solution that works for simplifying the process and aligning all the parties.

Track and trace, for pharmaceutical chain of custody, is another area where blockchain may be effective. This is an area with many handoffs and an application that simplifies those handoffs, and maintains a rock-solid secure information feed, would solve many challenges.

Patients are becoming more involved in their own record keeping, and having a patient-centered, blockchain-driven medical record file would allow portability and confidentiality. Taking it one step further, it is not out of the realm of possibility to see a standardized, patient-centered medical records exchange pushed for in legislation. Consumerization in the space would be assisted by facilitating this level of control and sharing of records.

Q: What do health IT leaders at hospitals and health systems need to know about blockchain today?

CD: They should know the basics on what the concept is, so they can see the potential for what it is, and what it isn't. Blockchain is simply a distributed ledger with some built in capabilities for security and transparency. That understanding can be used to cut through the public relations clutter and guide their thought processes around where a multi-participant ledger would benefit their business. They should look for areas of their business where there are needs for secure transaction flows. Those are ripe for its use, and if they want to learn more or participate in pilots, many are welcome.

To participate in future Becker's Q&As, contact Jackie Drees at jdrees@beckershealthcare.com.

More articles on health IT:
Blockchain's role in the digital transformation of healthcare: Seagate Technology's Jeff Fochtman shares insights
3 key thoughts on blockchain's potential for healthcare data management
How healthcare will benefit from blockchain: 3 key questions answered

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