How blockchain could affect the future of payment transactions in healthcare

Michael Dershem, CEO and founder of MAPay, a blockchain-based healthcare payment platform in Voorhees, N.J., discusses the possibilities of blockchain's use in healthcare, from rapid diagnosing with artificial intelligence technology to a more streamlined payment transaction process.

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

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

Michael Dershem: The state of blockchain in healthcare today is similar to the state of blockchain in mostly every industry. That is most see it as a revolutionary form of technology. There are many that see it is a fad that will someday pass. And as the C-Suite has seen very few real-use cases, the speed of adoption has been stymied, especially in the U.S. I also believe the technology itself may suffer from reputation risks while many find it hard to separate blockchain technology itself from the alt-currency market typified by Bitcoin. I believe we are on the verge of seeing real, sustainable business use in the areas of payments both enterprise and micro, cross-platform data access and use, and, finally, rapid diagnosing resulting from artificial intelligence within blockchains.

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

MD: The fundamental nature of blockchain is that it's a verifiable ledger that provides a historical record that can't be changed or interfered. The use case for patient medical records in areas such as population health management, dynamic diagnosing, clinical trials and disease management protocols are apparent. Additionally, smart contracts could be created around the encounter payment transaction that would collapse the costs relating to financial transaction and take out the ambiguity and inefficiency that exists today.

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

MD: Although there are zealots out there who diligently preach about how the benefits of blockchain will improve the adoption rate in healthcare, these same advocates are often a detriment to its acceptance. Blockchain today is not ready for primetime in many areas such as security, speed and cost of gas to run such networks. A more prudent, pragmatic approach is to build hybrid architectures that use legacy database structures with introduction of distributed ledger technologies. This provides a platform where blockchain technologies can be tested and trusted.

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

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