‘Blockchain innovations will creep in over the years, unnoticed by many’
YARMOUTH, Maine – Blockchain technology is a buzzword, but experts are still working on predicting its potential impact on the health care industry.
Patrick Schwerdtfeger, a business futurist who specializes in technology trends, including blockchain, big data and artificial intelligence, shared his thoughts on how blockchain technology could disrupt the status quo and give consumers more control over their private health data.
HHTN: What does blockchain technology mean for health care?
SCHWERDTFEGER: The primary issue plaguing the health care industry is a lack of interoperability—there are too many providers who each have their own systems for patient data. Countless organizations have tried to establish frameworks and standards for patient information exchange, but blockchain, which, by definition is a decentralized architecture, is perfectly suited to this task. An opportunity exists to establish a blockchain digital identity ledger, which would standardize patient information for all health care providers. The challenge is that this ledger would exist outside of any one organization and nobody would own it or control it.
HHTN: What will it take for blockchain technology to become widely adopted?
SCHWERDTFEGER: It will only take one blockchain digital identity ledger to gain broad market adoption, and health care providers will line up to support it. In health care, it may take a few iterations to find the final version, but it’s inevitable that such a version will emerge in the near future.
HHTN: How would a digital identity ledger work?
SCHWERDTFEGER: The creation of a digital identity ledger would deliver efficiencies, not profits. It would resemble a public utility that health care providers could tap into to streamline their own operations. It may take some time before blockchain technology is deployed, but once it begins, the transition to the blockchain paradigm will happen quickly.
HHTN: How does blockchain technology empower consumers in managing their own health care?
SCHWERDTFEGER: Traditional blockchain-based platforms have both a private and public key for each record, allowing participants to decide what information to share and what to keep private. Although it will take time for the public to fully understand the mechanics of blockchain protocol, they will eventually realize that they have far more control of their own health care data in a blockchain environment than a traditional database environment. Already today, countless corporate databases have been hacked, revealing customer data for all to see. With a blockchain-based system, developed properly, consumers would retain more control over their personal privacy.
HHTN: How can blockchain impact the health insurance space?
SCHWERDTFEGER: Blockchain delivers efficiencies, not revenue. It’s a cost-cutting tool. Between supply chain and digital identity applications, administrative functions will be streamlined. Over time, that will reduce health care costs, which will reduce insurance rates, as well. Blockchain innovations will creep in over the years, unnoticed by many, but will soon be used in most areas of business, automating trust-guaranteeing functions with decentralized ledger technology.