Kaumil Dalal, a director at Chicago-based technology consulting company West Monroe Partners, discusses what health IT leaders can expect from blockchain this year as well as the technology’s most significant applications.
Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Question: Where is blockchain in healthcare now and how will it develop in 2019?
Kaumil Dalal: Much like other industries, blockchain is still in the pilot and test stage for healthcare. The results of these pilots and tests are much harder to find. Though medical records management is one of the more talked about uses, basic data management has been the primary focus in the last couple of years with companies looking to digitize credentialing, genomic data, lab processes and documentation, and population health. Thankfully, the hype around blockchain is starting to subside, and technology leaders are beginning to recognize the real benefits and limitations of blockchain. This will lead to more targeted and thoughtful applications of the technology to specific use cases throughout 2019 and potentially some larger tests with proven results.
Q: What do you think will be the most significant blockchain applications in healthcare over the next five years?
KD: Provider credentialing and supply chain tracking are the most likely use cases for significant blockchain deployment with larger scale tests and pilot endeavors.
Q: What do health IT leaders at hospitals and health systems need to know about blockchain today?
KD: Health IT leaders at hospitals and health systems need to know three things about blockchain. First, blockchain works very well in certain use cases but not for most of them. Taking the time upfront to determine if the use case you’re looking at is a valid use of blockchain will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
Second, blockchain is not secure. The same security concerns you have with all your other technology still applies, and a few new ‘gotchas’ are introduced.
Third, blockchain is a very new technology and that makes it harder for its development and integration. Blockchain providers — Ethereum and Hyperledger, for example — are improving base offerings consistently, but there are still many aspects modern developers expect that simply aren’t there or mature. This means incorporating blockchain into the enterprise takes additional work, and you must be sure that extra effort is included in any return on investment calculation.
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