Healthcare industry interest in blockchain is rising — but interest isn't coming from providers

Healthcare players are beginning to investigate industry uses for blockchain, but most of this interest is coming from outside the provider space, according to a market research report.

HIMSS Analytics, a market research adviser and subsidiary of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society trade group, polled 160 technology decision-makers in the healthcare industry for its report on use cases for blockchain. The survey included input from providers, payers, pharmaceutical companies and medical device vendors.

Healthcare industry and government stakeholders have suggested various efforts to use blockchain, a permanent and shared ledger of online transactions or exchanges, to streamline healthcare operations in recent years. Unlike a traditional database that is centrally located and maintained by one party, a blockchain record is shared among a network of users.

Earlier this year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology suggested blockchain may be able to support healthcare record-keeping processes by centralizing where patient data is held, and, in 2017, consulting firm Deloitte released a report on blockchain's potential to improve interoperability, supply chain operations and revenue cycle management in hospitals.

When asked to describe their organization's current interest in the technology, almost half of respondents to HIMSS Analytics' poll (45 percent) said they were still investigating or learning about blockchain.

Of the 80 respondents who said they were either still learning about blockchain or were actively securing support for exploring blockchain use cases, 55 percent said it was somewhat likely they'd deploy a proof-of-concept or pilot test in the next 24 months. The remaining respondents were split on whether or not it was likely their organizations would deploy these early projects in that time period.

Consultants, payers and pharmaceutical companies were twice as likely to have plans for a blockchain proof-of-concept or pilot tests in the next 24 months compared to providers, at 38 percent versus 16 percent, respectively.

"While the current excitement and future outlook of blockchain in healthcare is encouraging, it is not without hurdles," the report reads. "Ultimately it may take upwards of two years before most organizations are even ready to test a blockchain pilot or proof of concept."

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