4 key thoughts on healthcare from an IBM blockchain expert

Though blockchain is certainly growing in popularity — with annual spending on the technology expected to nearly double in 2019 — it still has yet to gain traction among the majority of healthcare processes.

In a recent interview with Yale University's The Politic, Ian Hall, PhD, an executive software architect in IBM's healthcare and life sciences division, discussed how blockchain could be used to create "trusted and shared partnerships" between stakeholders in healthcare.

Here are four thoughts from Dr. Hall about blockchain's potential in the industry:

On the benefits of blockchain: "Any industry that involves a partnership among peers, where there are costly operations for the consumer or end user of a product or service, could benefit from a blockchain consortium. … Blockchain takes what has often been a cumbersome, bureaucratic and manual process, and it makes that into a digitally efficient process. The promise there is very exciting."

On creating partnerships in healthcare: "To me, the idea of blockchain is to share alike in the benefits of a more efficient and cost-effective operation. That includes the middlemen. When you can't see the pharmacy benefit managers as you can the pharmacy, the doctor, the hospital or whatever is causing you to need a pharmaceutical product, there's a tendency to blame them because they're headless.

"You could look at the whole process with great suspicion, but there could be a trusted and shared partnership between [pharmacy benefit managers and pharmaceutical companies]. The government might have to force them to cooperate, or they might just figure it out before the government raises its heavy hand and makes them do it."

On providers leading the blockchain charge: "It's the responsibility of providers to manage costs and make healthcare as affordable as possible. When they don't take on that responsibility, people choose to move to different plan providers. So, because it's in the best interest of the providers, maybe they'll lead the way to integrating blockchain into this relationship."

On implementing blockchain into EHRs: "What you don't see yet is a universal electronic health record for every individual. Given where we are with cyberattacks and security, I'd personally be very scared of that happening. On the other hand, there could be tremendous cost savings if the system permitted that with appropriate security and regulatory controls. So, I think it's an open question."

More articles on health IT:
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Google Cloud strikes partnership with blockchain company
The 3 cornerstones of a consumer-centric healthcare experience

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