Analyze: New Research on Blockchain Technology in Healthcare

HIMSS Analytics

Blockchain technology has been an increasingly hot topic across industries — but especially in the healthcare market. Sometimes called distributed ledger technology, blockchain is a transparent, immutable and verifiable record of all online transactions and structure data between parties. The key term here is immutable: each record in the blockchain cannot be changed, deleted or altered in any way. In healthcare, this means that blockchain can more securely and efficiently track patient health records, even across multiple providers and healthcare systems.

Some experts have claimed that blockchain will be the next big transformational technology in the healthcare industry, but is the healthcare industry really ready to adopt it? In the most recent HIMSS Analytics Essentials Brief, we surveyed 160 healthcare technology decision makers to assess current preparedness and hurdles to adopting blockchain technology.

Key Findings: Current Interest in Blockchain Technology

Almost half (45.3 percent) of respondents said that their organizations were still investigating or learning about blockchain. Some (6.3 percent) are building a business case and securing support for exploring blockchain use cases. Of those, more than half said they were somewhat likely to conduct a blockchain proof of concept or test pilot in the next 24 months — but non-providers (i.e. payers, pharma industry reps, consultants, etc.) are twice as likely to do this within the next 24 months than providers.

 

A small portion of organizations are actively pilot testing a blockchain use case (3.1 percent) right now, but a large chunk of respondents were still lukewarm to the idea; when asked about their organization's current interest in blockchain, about 36.5 percent responded "none of the above." In general, the study shows that few decision makers, on both the provider and non-provider side, know what blockchain is, understand how to use it or can agree upon what it means for healthcare.

 

But with all the hype surrounding blockchain technology and its potential impact on data security, interoperability and finance, why isn't there more drive among organizations to adopt this new technology?

A Slow Shift Into Blockchain Technology

Over the last ten years, the healthcare market has taken a huge leap toward digitization, but most advances have been relatively recent. When it comes to blockchain technology, healthcare organizations will have to learn how to crawl before they can walk. In other words, many are still focused on adopting and streamlining their core IT infrastructure before building out new additions like blockchain. Ultimately, it may take upwards of two years before most healthcare organizations are even ready to test a blockchain pilot or proof of concept.

This doesn't come as too much of a surprise; with a limited number of dollars and resources allotted for new investments and emerging technology, providers want to maintain what they have, provide the best care possible and improve patient outcomes before branching out. Non-providers have a little more bandwidth to experiment with new technologies, which may explain their statistically higher likelihood of conducting a proof of concept or test pilot in the upcoming months. These first-time adopters will be the ones to prove those use cases and provide a more concrete path for other organizations to follow before they dip their toes into the blockchain waters.

Considering the current state of the market, blockchain vendors will need to be patient. The healthcare market will require more time to learn how blockchain can enhance efficiencies and increase effectiveness from a financial, interoperability, patient and security perspective — but the opportunities for adoption are sure to arise. Once the effective application and seamless implementation of blockchain technology is better proven on a wider scale, healthcare organizations will be more likely to begin investigating and investing in blockchain solutions.