3 min read - Posted 11 Mar 19


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This article was originally published on

on August 20th, 2018.

These days it seems like you can’t find a single industry on the face of the planet which is not said to be on the verge of a revolution thanks to blockchain. Healthcare is no exception. Possibilities for blockchain in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries continue to arise, but is blockchain the answer to the healthcare industry’s IT problems? Some think blockchain is the right technology to power a decentralized healthcare ecosystem. The Pistoia Alliance , a global, nonprofit alliance that proclaims to “lower barriers to innovation in life sciences R&D” reached out to the pharmaceutical and technology industries to come together around blockchain initiatives. 120 senior pharmaceutical and life science leaders were surveyed via webinar in June 2016 . According to the survey, interest in blockchain is high — with a noteworthy 83% anticipating blockchain to be adopted in under three years (five years from the date of the survey). One way blockchain technology could help the healthcare industry is it could replace administrative paperwork altogether, which is one of the reasons healthcare expenses have gone up. Using blockchain, patients could make transactions with doctors and hospitals in a way that skips the administrative burdens associated with insurance. A recent volume of the International Journal for Academic Medicine includes Stanislaw Stawicki’s paper “Whats new in medicine? Blockchain technology in healthcare: Bigger, better, fairer, faster, leaner.” Stawicki writes:

It is well established that significant proportion of productive health-care resources simply “evaporate” because of bloated bureaucracies, inefficient (and inequitable) insurance structures, and debt-fueled, inflationary fiscal policies. Thus, key objectives of blockchain-based solutions in health-care would be to reduce “red tape” and make the system “leaner,” more transparent, and more secure while re-focusing the industry’s effort on its primary goal: providing value-optimized (e. g., high quality and low cost) health-care services.

However, arguments in favor of blockchain, such as its superior security, doesn’t mean that a blockchain-based Electronic Health Record (EHR) will be able to convince decision-makers to allow patient data sharing. Blockchain isn’t invincible. Countless cryptocurrency wallets have been hacked. Although there are many potential applications for healthcare blockchains, it may be that the heavy technobabble and media hype have caused confusion about how and when to use this technology. There are, however, some companies and ideas focused on this space right now: Patientory , Change Healthcare , Medicalchain , MedRec , and doc.ai9 are just to name a few. They all count on blockchain to be the silver bullet. And maybe they’re right. Perhaps it is time for people to do what they do best when faced with a seemingly impossible situation: innovate. What do you think? Do you think new blockchain technology will be the answer to the healthcare industry’s IT needs? If so, how? And if not, why not?

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