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Thinking of attempting blockchain in healthcare? Read this first.

Some experts say that a promising application for blockchain is in the healthcare space. Before attempting blockchain in healthcare, read what this analyst has to say.

Blockchain in healthcare promises to fix some problems, according to some experts; lack of interoperability and security of health records, for example. While there may be some merit in those claims, in order to be successful with blockchain in healthcare, CIOs should pinpoint the best use cases for this technology.

Martha Bennett, principal analyst serving CIOs at Forrester Research, has a message for healthcare CIOs regarding blockchain. She also offers advice to CIOs on how to tell whether the use of blockchain is appropriate in certain situations, environments and use cases, as well as when it's not.

If CIOs want to use blockchain in healthcare, what advice do you have for them?

Martha Bennett: The message to CIOs would be, investigate what use cases you regard as the most promising for a completely different way of recording and sharing health data, and then look at it from an end-to-end perspective. Who's involved? How much control do you have? How many industry players need to come together and all agree on the same thing? And then that's when you very quickly realize that this isn't going to happen overnight.

How can CIOs judge whether blockchain in healthcare would be successful when applied to certain use cases?

I would turn it around and say, "Where are the areas where the most amount of time is wasted arguing about whose data is correct?" It could be around biller information. It could be around arguments about procedure codes; whatever it may be.

And, of course, then there's the other use case that I started off with when I made my comment about how do I provide emergency services with access to my health records if I'm unconscious in the street. That use case around giving patients control back over their own data. I, personally, don't regard that as the first and primary use case, simply because of the difficulty in putting in place all the various pieces, taking into account the fact that the patients are going to take different degrees of interest and also have different degrees of just computer literacy to actually cope with the staff. So, from a healthcare CIO perspective, I would focus on processes that are reasonably straightforward that involve a number of parties and where time is wasted in trying to figure out who's right.

Martha Bennett, principal analyst serving CIOs, Forrester ResearchMartha Bennett

Where blockchain can help is in an environment where processes aren't working very well because companies don't trust each other with this data. If you have a system where everybody looks at the same data, and the system is designed in a way that you have trust in, you're looking at the correct data and it has not been tampered with, that's when you have, potentially, a promising use case on hand. But you do need to look at the end-to-end process.

What else do you think is important to weigh before embarking on a blockchain attempt in a healthcare setting? Let me know; shoot me an email at klee@techtarget.com or reach out on Twitter at @Kristen_Lee_34

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This was last published in October 2016

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