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Readers Write: Why 2022 Will Be the Year of Wide Adoption of Blockchain Technology in Healthcare

January 17, 2022 Readers Write 10 Comments

Why 2022 Will Be the Year of Wide Adoption of Blockchain Technology in Healthcare
By Stuart Hanson

Stuart Hanson, MBA is CEO of Avaneer Health of Chicago, IL,


To all the HIStalk readers who are skeptical of blockchain in healthcare, this one is especially for you. I look forward to discussing further with each of you!

I believe the inability to lifecycle manage and effortlessly share data (with patient permission) is one of the biggest problems in our health system today. As an industry, we must be able to track clinical insights with administrative data together, in order to maintain a complete view of the individual and their specific needs. As we all know, there is no way to dynamically link data in joint processes with multiple parties at scale that is automated, permissioned, traceable, and highly secure. This must change.

The first step is to view healthcare data as a digital asset. Blockchain makes this possible.

Blockchain technology solves many of the challenges with digital asset management as we’ve seen with cryptocurrency. By viewing patient data as a digital asset, we can shift our view from the technology, processes, and workflows used to manage patient data and begin focusing on how blockchain can become part of the healthcare ecosystem.

While large organizations rapidly identified ways to use blockchain, the technology has shown itself to be disruptive to processes, business models, and competitive environments, resulting in a slow adoption of blockchain in healthcare. However, the industry is learning from its initial efforts and is ready to use blockchain as the following elements become more real:

  • Governance. Blockchain enables coopetition in a way that existing technology cannot. The idea of hospitals joining a community of trust with payers is unheard of, but is made possible with a governance structure that can be trusted and powered by blockchain. We’ve seen how Cleveland Clinic and Sentara Healthcare have teamed with payers like Anthem, HCSC, and Aetna to develop a blockchain-enabled network. They formed a consortium and spent several years developing the governance framework, then founded Avaneer Health to use the governance structure and develop its healthcare utility network infrastructure for accessing data, deploying solutions, and creating a marketplace.
  • Use cases for permissioned, nationwide blockchain are emerging. Administrative processes in healthcare are burdened with waste and inefficiency. In the midst of this challenge, a blockchain-enabled network eliminates the need for point-to-point connectivity by creating an environment of “connect once to many.” Also, a blockchain-enabled network functions as a verifiable trust layer for joint processes between participants on the network. Because of that agreed, verifiable trust function, counter-party risk of data sharing is significantly reduced. Each participant on the blockchain knows with a certified verification that the other partiers are “good actors” and agree to interact with each other using automatically enforced standards. No other middleman data processing entity is needed to guarantee the integrity of the data or transaction. Only once all the participants can verify trust against the others in how, why, and when they will interact, does truly continuous dynamic data updates and sharing becomes possible. This is the vision for the future state for all healthcare organizations.
  • Momentum creates more momentum. Many early blockchain healthcare initiatives struggled with adoption and languished in research and development. They seemed all but doomed because of the lack of collaboration. However, that’s no longer the case with the payers and providers mentioned above. Together, they have created a blockchain network with a collective 80 million covered lives and 14 million annual patient visits. And organizations like PNC Bank are now launching solutions that impact thousands of providers and numerous payers nationwide. This is what momentum looks like and it’s just the beginning as large organizations see they have a vested interest in participating.

Healthcare innovators have developed solutions using blockchain for medical supply chain, health credential validation, provider credentialing, patient data security, and life sciences. It’s time to broaden our scope to look at all healthcare processes as opportunities for transformation using blockchain. The train has left the station. Are you on board?

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Currently there are "10 comments" on this Article:

  1. On the surface, blockchain sounds promising for this use-case but I have lots of questions. For those of us who want to learn more, can the author or others point us to open/public research or white papers specific to healthcare’s use of it?

  2. I don’t get it.

    You’re talking about solving problems that already have solutions (governance, trust and security), but don’t address the real issues with data exchange and the criticisms of blockchain in healthcare specifically.

    As an admitted “skeptic”, what was I supposed to learn here?

    • Right there with you. I was thinking, “Oh! A HISTalk piece that might actually tell me it’s usefulness.” Nope. Every single time this happens, it’s people inserting the word blockchain into existing infrastructure, declaring it innovative, and having it poised (or, in this case, “ready to use as the elements become more real”).

      My two-bit analysis is to simple substitute the word “ledger” for “blockchain. If that seems innovative, then there might be something to it. Spoiler alert: it never does.

      • Point of order here. You have to say “distributed ledger”, because that sprinkles magical marketing pixie dust on it!

        If you just say “ledger”, well that’s just accounting and as we all know, accounting is boring.

  3. “eliminates the need for point-to-point connectivity by creating an environment of ‘connect once to many.'”

    “other partiers are “good actors” and agree to interact with each other using automatically enforced standards.”

    So… Carequality / Care Everywhere / CommonWell? What does blockchain add that these networks don’t already do?

  4. At its core Blockchain is a database. It is the slowest database ever invented due to the need to write multiple entries for every read or write transaction. Therefore it has no place in a fast paced healthcare environment. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to spend 10 minutes with a busy physician.

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