Join NexChange - the professional
network for the financial services
industry - and receive a free one-
year subscription to Forbes
Healthcare Needs to Innovate. Enter Blockchain Technology.
Given that 2018 has been an especially terrible year for cryptocurrencies – and an eleventh-hour rally is highly unlikely – one could argue that this is the year when the most interesting discussions around blockchain have been about all the ways how it can be utilized for innovation beyond digital coins.
Having evolved from the days when it was introduced to most people as that thing that powers Bitcoin, blockchain technology has evolved to where it’s now being talked about as a possible solution to innovating any number of industries. From global payments to the travel industry to the real estate business, the possibilities for its utilization seem limitless. While the application of blockchain as a tool of innovation may still be mostly theoretical in a lot of industries, there appears to be unmistakable momentum in its development.
And this momentum might be most powerful right now in healthcare. According to a new report by the PwC Health Research Institute, nearly half (49%) of the global healthcare companies surveyed “are developing, piloting or implementing blockchain projects.”
PwC’s report notes that within the healthcare industry, the pharmaceutical supply chain, credentialing processes and contract administration “likely contain the highest potential for near-term disruption.”
“Healthcare organizations run on many complex, data-intensive, slow, manual processes often performed by by intermediaries who handle data and trust mechanisms,” the report states. “Blockchain could simplify and automate these processes, in some cases saving companies weeks of effort, revenue and lost opportunities.”
Because, as PwC notes, most healthcare companies “run on many complex, data-intensive, slow, manual processes,” the effort to begin “developing, piloting or implementing blockchain projects” is being accomplished through partnerships with tech companies that can lead them toward innovation. Cointelegraph recently reported that Myongji Hospital, one of South Korea’s largest hospitals, has partnered with a Korean IT company called BICube to develop a blockchain-based medical services platform that will be ready to launch in 2019.
The two parties plan to use blockchain technology to create a healthcare information exchange system. According to the hospital’s release, the aim of the project is to “build a hybrid cloud [platform] that combines a public cloud and a private cloud.”
The medical information exchange service’s hybrid cloud functionality will allow patients to share sensitive medical data with other medical institutions upon authorization, without the data being stored centrally.
Meanwhile, Bill Frist, a a heart and lung transplant surgeon and former U. S. Senate Majority Leader, detailed the potential that exists for blockchain technology to disrupt the healthcare industry in a column this week in Forbes about . Witing about the Distributed Health conference in Nashville, Tennessee, Frist, who now serves as the chairman of the executive council of the health service investment firm Cressey & Company, noted that “I was looking for real world evidence of a maturing industry—and I found it.”
Frist said that he is “particularly excited about the potential blockchain has for the healthcare industry.”
It will give us a fresh approach to sharing data, including breaking down silos with electronic medical records, simplifying revenue cycle reconciliation and pharmaceutical supply chains, aiding researchers in drug development by making patient data more accessible and secure, synching data from health trackers and wearables into a consumer’s health record, and much more.
To be sure, not everyone is convinced that cryptocurrencies nor blockchain technology will ever live up to the considerable hype that has gotten others so excited about the possibilities for innovation they provide. Writing about cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology for Forbes, Yuwa Hedrick-Wong argues that “cryptocurrency as a specific application of the blockchain technology has been a spectacular failure,” and that blockchain technology has yet to prove itself as a successful application separate from Bitcoin.
“Because blockchain was invented to create Bitcoin, what else can blockchain do on its own is a matter of exploration,” writes Hedrick-Wong, the former Global Chief Economist and Chair of the Academic Advisory Council at Mastercard. “As yet, nothing has been proven.”
However, also writing for Forbes, Dante Disparte, the founder and CEO of Risk Cooperative, notes “that that the technology has only come out of beta in 2017, despite bitcoin and its underlying public blockchain turning 10 this year.”
“Progress with blockchain, even for large incumbent companies or power structures, need not be a zero-sum proposition,” Disparte writes. “Indeed, blockchain is an augmenting technology precisely because it does not have to disrupt the type of value derived from existing systems, rather it can help create entirely new service, product and relationship models with and between markets or constituents.”
This potential to “help create entirely new service, product and relationship models with and between markets or constituents” is no doubt why the healthcare industry is increasingly embracing blockchain technology. It’s why it will continue to partner with tech companies to bring badly needed innovation to the industry.
While they’ve struggled to establish themselves as a viable alternative to the traditional monetary system, it still seems too early to declare cryptocurrencies “a spectacular failure” just yet. But if you’re looking for where the true innovation is happening with the blockchain, it’s probably time to look beyond digital coins.
Photo: Getty iStock