HIMSS 2019: What Healthcare Organizations Should Know Before Diving into Blockchain


Current efforts leveraging blockchain in healthcare are few and far between, with many still in the testing stages, according David Houlding, principal healthcare lead for Microsoft. Speaking on Monday at the HIMSS 2019 conference in Orlando, Fla., Houlding said the technology allows secure, targeted sharing of healthcare data where it makes business sense — adding that its best value, at present, is in reducing healthcare costs.

“If you say you’ve got a new use case for blockchain that will improve patient engagement, that’s nice; but the ones that are getting early traction are the ones that have a strong cost-reduction value proposition attached to them,” Houlding said.

MORE FROM HEALTHTECH: Check out what other health IT experts had to say about the role of blockchain in healthcare.

Providers Should Focus First on Blockchain Consortium Building

Organizations must have a specific idea of how they want to leverage blockchain first, rather than trying to shoehorn the technology into several broad areas, Houlding said. Additionally, he said, one of the hardest parts of achieving blockchain success is consortium building. That’s based primarily on the establishment of trust between participating organizations, then developing efforts from there.

“If you start with blockchain, you start with a great use case and get people excited. But at the end of the day, you don’t have any organizations that are willing to connect to that to transact. This is where a lot of blockchain initiatives die,” Houlding said. “Start with your consortium, getting the buy-in, getting the trust.”

In particular, Houlding called existing B2B networks — health information exchange networks, medical device supply chains, drug supply chains and payment networks — low-hanging fruit.

“Those consortiums already exist,” he said. “You don’t have to build new networks. You don’t have to convince the members about why they need to exchange data; they’re already doing it.”

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Put Minimal but Sufficient Data on Your Blockchain

Houlding’s main rule for entering data into a blockchain is to put no more information in than is absolutely necessary.

“The biggest lever you have to control risk to confidentiality of data is what data you put on that blockchain,” he said. “Minimal but sufficient’ is the strong guidance. Whatever your use case, whatever the minimum amount you need to put on blockchain to execute that use case, that’s what you put on.”

To that end, he also said that blockchain is not a silver bullet for security.

“Anybody who says that, it should automatically raise a yellow flag,” Houlding said.

Keep this page bookmarked for articles from the event. Follow us on Twitter @CDW_Healthcare, as well as the official organization account, @HIMSS, and join the conversation using hashtags including #CDWHIMSS and #HIMSS19.

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