Dear Clients and Friends,
In the early 1980’s, corporate executives at IBM and AT&T predicted that global demand for personal computers would top 1,000 units and there will only be 2,000 subscribers for wireless phones. The world is a different place now. And yet, we hear echoes from the past where sceptics in our industry say change will come slowly and incrementally, if at all. Healthcare, they claim, is different and it would be difficult to make sweeping changes to the industry quickly. But the reality is different. Not only is change coming quickly, but remarkably, it is being embraced by both practitioners and patients, and reinforced by visionary entrepreneurs determined to shake up the system. One example that can give us a glimpse of the future is the emerging technology of blockchains. This technology has the potential to single handedly squeeze hundreds of billions of dollars of costs out of the system, giving us more reason to hope for an inclusive and affordable healthcare system.
Blockchains are essentially an open source distributed data base structure that use state of the art cryptography. The technology allows collaboration and exchange of data among related parties where tracking of all transactions and interactions are highly secured, underpinned with genuine privacy protection; a platform for truth and trust. They are designed to enable disparate systems to exchange data creating connectivity between multiple networks – weaving together systems and networks to provide a distributed database for managing unique digital assets. The exchange of data residing in EHRs seem to be a natural place to start — it’s all about facilitating the move from paper to digital to network clusters and ultimately to a single interoperability “engine”.
If providers, payers and patients had access to the same global “spreadsheet”, namely the EHR, imagine the savings that we could drive from this technology. Payers and providers spend $300B annually on administrative functions related to data access and exchange, reconciliation of payments and fraud. Blockchains have the ability to put a serious dent in that spend. And we will undoubtedly see a significant rise in quality of care and patient satisfaction. The good news is that companies are already working on developing a purpose built healthcare blockchain. They are building a specific programmable communication layer that can connect a variety of our data sources to blockchains, facilitating the first steps of adoption.
Blockchains give us a real chance, another go to try to save our bloated healthcare system. We don’t like to think of the technology as a disruptor but more as an organic necessity that takes advantage of the emerging trends in disintermediation and democratization of data sharing. If anybody tells you that the use of blockchains in healthcare is a pipe dream, remind them that most predictions about technology adoption have been grossly underestimated. We promise you won’t lose this bet!