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Healthcare Blockchain Relies on Industry Standardization

Healthcare blockchain solutions are gaining popularity, but the technology is in need of industry standardization for wide spread infrastructure deployment.

Healthcare blockchain is becoming more popular, but lacks standardization.

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Healthcare blockchain is growing as organizations seek more secure ways to exchange information and conduct transactions with other entities.

The enterprise blockchain market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 26 percent through 2025, according to a recent Tractica report. Healthcare is one of the verticals expected to see the most benefit from blockchain in the next several years.

Report authors explained that blockchain offers a radically different approach for transaction processes, which makes it difficult for some organizations to embrace.

The healthcare industry in particular is historically hesitant when it comes to embracing technology that operates differently than traditional solutions. Entities need to be sure that a solution is completely secure and HIPAA compliant before they can consider deploying it in a healthcare setting.

Blockchain is used for many types of transactions, from logging an event, to signing a document, to exchanging data between organizations.

While blockchain holds a promising future for enterprises across all industries, the technology lacks standardization, making it difficult for some organizations to justify a deployment in the near future.

“In the last year alone, over a hundred financial institutions, more than two dozen governments, and countless corporations and venture capitalists have invested more than $1 billion into blockchain startups,” report authors explained. “But through the fog of hype lies the sobering reality that this is a market of extreme nascence and fragmentation; a notable void of in-production or at-scale implementations; and a lack of regulatory, legal, governance, collaborative, economic, digital, and even cultural precedent.”

The lack of standardization in healthcare blockchain technology is a problem that vendors and healthcare organizations are currently working to solve.

Earlier this year, IBM Watson Health and the FDA announced a collaborative research agreement to discover the best way to implement a healthcare blockchain solution. The collaboration aims to apply blockchain technology to define secure, efficient, and scalable health data exchange.

IBM and the FDA will evaluate the use of blockchain technology in the exchange of owner-mediated data from sources including EHRs, clinical trials, genomic data, and health data collected from mobile devices (i.e. wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) devices).

"The healthcare industry is undergoing significant changes due to the vast amounts of disparate data being generated. Blockchain technology provides a highly secure, decentralized framework for data sharing that will accelerate innovation throughout the industry," IBM Watson Health Vice President for Innovations and Chief Science Officer Shahram Ebadollahi said in a statement.

The collaboration should have initial findings to share sometime later this year.

Back in January a group of blockchain vendors gathered to discuss a collective effort to address the challenges facing blockchain IoT deployments in enterprise IT infrastructure.

The vendors included Hashed Health, Cisco, and Foxconn. The group agreed on several cornerstone elements they deemed critical to every blockchain deployment to ensure smooth integration and interoperability between blockchain systems.

It was decided that security, trust, identity, registration, and verification need to be present in all blockchain deployments, regardless of vendor.

BNY Mellon Head of Blockchain Alex Batlin stated that blockchain has the power to improve resiliency and efficiency in a fully connected world.

"What's missing today is a solution that provides trusted, tamper-proof guarantees for any title deed, public record, compliance event, or transaction, building on the way paper documents are used currently,” Batlin said.

Healthcare blockchain becoming a standard infrastructure technology will depend on what standards are in place. While blockchain technology is designed to be more secure than other data exchange solutions, a lack of industry standards could cause interoperability issues.

As the healthcare blockchain market matures, industry standards are critical to its success in the healthcare vertical.