Add healthcare to the growing list of industries that are jumping on the blockchain bandwagon.
The technology's influence is spreading well beyond cryptocurrency backers and some early adopter financial technology (FinTech) firms. A recent study from Black Book Market Research reveals that breach-weary healthcare companies and providers are exploring blockchain in increasing numbers.
Ninety percent of medical group managers and IT professionals believe that blockchain can help resolve connectivity, privacy and record-sharing concerns, found the research group in its survey of 88 healthcare payers and 276 IT professionals at healthcare providers. Ninety-three percent of managed care organizations and 70 percent of hospitals feel blockchain in the answer to improved healthcare interoperability.
Most large insurance and other healthcare payer organizations don't need convincing.
Nearly all payers (98 percent) with at least 500,000 members are considering or actively pursuing blockchain deployments. By the first quarter of 2019, 70 percent of payers of all sizes expect their systems to feature a blockchain integration.
"Executive blockchain education has shifted from Blockchain 101 to selecting the appropriate healthcare blockchain technology protocols," said Black Book Market Research managing partner Doug Brown, in a statement. "The most popular connectivity strategy circulating among health care technologists, and even ONC [Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology], is blockchain technology," he added.
As with any emerging technology, there are some downsides. "The lack of technical standards for this still-immature technology is causing regulatory uncertainty while the industry anticipates explanations from federal rules at some point in 2018," Brown said.
Blockchain's allure is its immutability and decentralized nature. Unlike conventional databases that can be changed by their owners (or hackers), records in blockchain distributed databases are secure, verifiable and permanent.
These appealing traits are appealing to healthcare and other industries where data privacy and security are paramount. That's why Accenture's patent for an "editable blockchain" raised eyebrows last year. The technology is aimed at permissioned blockchain networks were participants operate under agreed-upon rules, not the open, so-called "permissionless" and immutable blockchains that power cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
Richard Lumb, group chief executive of Financial Services at Accenture, said "absolute immutability will become both a virtue and a vice" when blockchain is applied to use cases beyond cryptocurrencies.
"For decentralized cryptocurrency systems, such permanent accounting has been crucial in building trust and faith among participants. But for financial services institutions faced with a myriad of risk and regulatory requirements, absolute immutability is a potential roadblock," added Lumb. "Our invention strikes a balance for enterprise use that preserves the fundamental value of the technology while enabling enterprise adoption."
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.