HIMSS19 took place in Orlando, FL the week of February 11 and this was the third year Hyperledger had a presence at the conference. HIMSS is the leading Healthcare Information and Technology Conference attracting over 45,000 people from 45+ countries each year. Member companies of the Hyperledger Foundation are invited to spend time working the booth, and I had the opportunity to represent Myndshft interfacing with attendees and answering questions about how blockchain technologies fit into healthcare.
Thoughts on Hyperledger Booth at HIMSS
Most people inquiring about blockchain at HIMSS this year were looking for ideas, thoughts, and examples of how blockchain could and should be implemented in healthcare. HIMSS attendees have been following blockchain topics for the last three years (since Hyperledger first had a presence at HIMSS) and many are savvy to how blockchain provides data immutability, creates a network of members, and the general concept of a distributed ledger. There were a few recurring questions the visitors to the Hyperledger booth asked on a variety of different topics, but they all circled around the idea of where blockchain makes the most sense to be implemented.
*NOTE*: There were quite a few questions about how Hyperledger fit into the world of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and cryptocurrency in general, but most of these discussions ended up at one of the following places below after a basic explanation that Hyperledger focuses on blockchains for business and operates differently than completely public blockchains that utilize cryptocurrency.
The three big questions I heard repeatedly at the booth were:
‘Should I use blockchain to enhance my security?’
‘How am I supposed to integrate my existing technology into a blockchain?’
‘Where is blockchain being used today in healthcare?’
Let’s break them down into each of their parts:
Is blockchain for security?
People still aren’t sure how blockchain security works. Many visitors were conflating the cryptographic properties of blockchain with the idea that they need less security infrastructure to run a blockchain. The question asked at the booth a few times was “Explain to me how a blockchain isn’t hackable?” The discussion that followed typically included an explanation that all existing security measures need to be in place for a blockchain network to be secure, but when you use blockchain, the historical data on the chain isn’t able to be changed.Thus individual records aren’t able to be manipulated without notice, providing organizations with minimal trust to work from a common record of truth.
How can I integrate with my current systems or other blockchains?
Many people wanted to know how data got into and out of a blockchain network and how they were able to continue using their existing systems. The majority of participants had concerns that adopting blockchain would require a rip-and-replace of the IT systems their organization has already spent millions of dollars on. The reality is that Hyperledger blockchains like Fabric and Sawtooth are able to coexist with existing IT systems and provide functionality that their existing systems don’t have and never will have without a network. Listening to the conversations around data integration and interoperability was a good reminder that the SDKs provided for the different blockchain projects within Hyperledger need to be a top priority for development. Without good SDKs and the ability for non-blockchain engineers to use them effectively, it is unlikely that blockchain will gain much adoption beyond some niche use cases.
Where is it being used today?
The last question people had was around how blockchain is being used today in healthcare. There are few companies that already have blockchains up and running for different parts of the healthcare ecosystem today.
Myndshft is a company building a network of payers and providers to bring transparency, speed, and auditability to the prior authorization process. The network integrates with existing systems of record and use events in those systems to drive execution of “smart contracts” (the rules that govern how a blockchain operates), which automate the prior authorization before writing the results back to the providers system.
Change Healthcare is also running a blockchain for claims processing and monitoring. In conjunction with its clearinghouse, Change is using blockchain to ensure all claims that are processed are auditable and traceable.
Synaptic Health Alliance and the DokChain Alliance are also groups looking into blockchain and how it fits to drive efficiencies and collaboration in healthcare.
Overall, the interest and education around blockchain in the healthcare community is growing rapidly, and nobody is wanting to be left behind or appear as a laggard in their implementation and adoption of blockchain technologies. For more information about what Hyperledger is doing in healthcare or how Myndshft is solving complex administrative problems, please reach out to me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or join us in the Hyperledger Healthcare-SIG Rocket.Chat.