This was a pivotal time for
the healthcare industry: The system for classifying inpatient stays known as “DRGs”
was taking shape, nurse and physician recruitment efforts were at a fever pitch,
and unionization campaigns were sprouting up at hospitals and medical centers
across the country. The internet wasn’t in existence, nor were there digital
Fast forward to HLTH — The Future of Healthcare event held on May 6 to 9 at the Aria Hotel and Resort in Las Vegas.
Here, the tech world was in full swing with a wide swath of transformative,
educational themes in the healthcare industry covered. Payers, providers,
employers, policymakers, investors, startup leaders and others from the pharmaceutical,
life sciences, government, hospital retail and health associations sectors were
in attendance, participating in robust conversations and exploring
groundbreaking innovations in this space.
While attending the myriad
educational sessions and networking events at the conference, I was struck by
what seemed to be an endless stream of robust conversations about the emerging intersection
of blockchain technology and its uses in healthcare.
“What do you predict in
terms of blockchain’s future impact and contribution to the industry?” one
professorial-looking man inquired of me at lunch. “Will healthcare stakeholders
embrace it? And will it succeed amid a healthcare system that is heavily siloed
These were among the many
questions about distributed ledger technology that were asked within earshot of
me throughout the conference.
Some of these questions, or
similar ones, were also addressed by two of the conference headliners, David T.
Feinberg, president and CEO of Geisinger Health System, and Anne Wojcicki, CEO
and co-founder of the genetic testing site 23andMe.
In the opening session,
Feinberg held the audience in rapt attention with his groundbreaking
announcement that Geisinger will soon be integrating genetic sequencing as part of its routine care
for patients. A couple
of days later, Wojcicki gave a riveting
speech underscoring the theme: "Healthcare
is ripe for innovation.”
covered a broad swath of topics focusing on the digital evolution taking place
in healthcare, blockchain technology was well represented at the conference.
Here are a few observations and sobering realities I walked away with.
1. Industry Resistance to Change
A colleague of mine, tech
futurist and author Dan Burrus, often says that “technology is no longer holding us back. Egos, lies, and protecting the status quo are
the main barriers to successful change initiatives.”
I believe this is true with respect to the
healthcare industry. Many attendees of HLTH told me that while there is a ton
of enthusiasm and promise around blockchain technology’s healthcare
applications, industry incumbents and entrenched factions within the industry
are simply not ready to shift their business models. It will be interesting to
see how all of this shapes up.
as the Ultimate Data Security Fix
was lots of chatter at the HLTH conference about data privacy and security
concerns within the industry. And for good reason, based on this report.
In fact, when a question was posed to a group of panelists at the HLTH session
entitled “Blockchain at Scale — Hype or Hope” about blockchain technology as
the panacea security solution, Ted
Tanner of PokitDok offered this: “Is
blockchain [technology] a far better solution? Yes. Perfect solution? No!”
3. What Is a
am always taken aback a bit when someone at a tech conference like HLTH asks me
for an elementary explanation of what blockchain technology is. Getting this
question from a Lyft driver is one thing. But a veteran data scientist that has
no clue? Now that’s shocking. Maybe that’s why, in the aforementioned conference
session, “Blockchain at Scale — Hype or Hope,” one of the first questions posed
to the panelists sought to clarify “why Bitcoin is not blockchain.”
Technology’s Value Proposition
another one of the panelists, Jay Sales, director at VSP Global, kept harping about the importance of “practical proof of value”
with blockchain technology, I wanted to give him a high-five. Because, sadly,
we’re seeing a tsunami of healthcare projects with supposed blockchain
solutions that, while probably well-intentioned, amount to nothing more than a
white paper and a website. There’s a need to reverse the order in which these
solutions are developed and to boost blockchain technology’s legitimacy in the
Consumer Data Ownership Movement Will Be Big, But …
predict that talk about average, everyday people being able to control their
own data through one of the many blockchain solutions being proposed will not
sit well with the healthcare industry. In fact, at a lunch session I attended,
one of the folks mentioned health data as an asset category that will one day
be driven by consumers themselves using a blockchain. An eerie silence
Models Loom Large
Jay Sales of VSP Global stunned the HLTH “Blockchain at Scale” panel discussion
when he mentioned that the 270/271 Health Care Eligibility Model, which allows a monetary float on healthcare transactions, is on
its way out. He said that tokenization will be the underpinning of a new
business here and that blockchain technology is the trust mechanism that holds
the most promise in this space.