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Is Blockchain Technology Ripe or Overhyped?

Paul Boal

The hype (and possible hysteria) around Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency has brought blockchain technology to the forefront as the innovative solution for many of our industries’ challenges. The alluring component of blockchain is its decentralized, distributed and encrypted ledger but whether its actual application will take the healthcare industry by storm is less clear. 

Cryptic Results

At the end of 2016, Deloitte released the results of an anonymous online survey of 308 senior executives at organizations with $500 million or more in annual revenue. The results showed that “almost two in five (39 percent) of senior executives at large US companies surveyed indicated they had little or no knowledge about blockchain technology” while “fifty-five percent of this group said their company would be at a competitive disadvantage if it failed to adopt the technology.”

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Source: Press Release, “Deloitte survey: Blockchain reaches beyond financial services with some industries moving faster”

Managing director of Deloitte, David Schatsky, summarized the results by saying, “It is fair to say that industry is still confused to a degree about the potential for blockchain. More than a quarter of surveyed knowledgeable execs say their companies view blockchain as a critical, top-five priority. But about a third consider the technology overhyped.” 

Technology as a Tool

When it comes to blockchain’s current ability to transform healthcare, we come down firmly on the side of “hype.” The ability to transform healthcare will come from the people focusing on business value. Focusing on a nascent (yet attractive) technology is like holding a hammer looking at every problem like it’s a nail, but by firmly grounding yourself in business value and ROI you can then choose the best tool for the occasion. 

Instead of looking at a promising new technology to resolve interoperability challenges, reframe interoperability as a process and service capability rather than a technology, and then map technology solutions as applicable. Consider the example of how we can create the ability to share and integrate data for telemedicine or allow hospitals to integrate information with post-acute and long-term care facilities. To say that blockchain is the panacea to solve all interoperability challenges is to ignore the business process and contracting layers needed to increase the efficiency. If we had the perfect interoperability technology, would these disparate organizations already be aligned in how their processes work together?

The Value is Off the Chain

This does not mean that blockchain is useless, but rather than being a core technology that IT departments need to implement directly, it will be folded into specific platforms and applications. This is why it is important to focus on business use cases off the chain, such as employing a multi-level framework similar to the OSI model to improve service-level interoperability and information sharing challenges. Focusing on the business issues will ensure the evolution of technology accelerates the realization of business value, and new business opportunities can accelerate technology investment in a virtuous cycle of progress. This is where we keep our focus, on building business value. If you’d like to have a chat about how we can help you uncover business value for you and your team, feel free to reach out to us here