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Blockchain interest gaining, but cost questions cause providers pause

While most payers are implementing or are planning to launch blockchain projects by 2019, providers still waiting to see how regulations unfold.

Jessica Davis, Associate Editor

Interest and understanding of blockchain technology has improved exponentially in the healthcare sector in 2017, which is being fueled by its potential to solve issues with interoperability, connectivity, privacy and patient record sharing, according to a new Black Book report.

In fact, blockchain has become so popular that 88 percent of payers are considering deploying or currently implementing blockchain, the report found. Nearly all payers with plans with more than 500,000 members are actively considering or deploying the tech, and 14 percent are involved in trial deployments.

[Also: Change Healthcare rolls out enterprise blockchain for hospitals, payers]

The increased consideration and implementations stem from a better understanding of the technology, as 29 percent of hospital leaders and 82 percent of health insurance executives said they have a 'working understanding' of blockchain.

Further, blockchain is the most popular strategy being considered by healthcare technologists and even the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

What's holding the technology back is a lack of technical standards and blockchain is still immature, which is causing some regulatory uncertainty. Fortunately, the healthcare sector expects some federal rules to come in 2018. As a result, blockchain integrations are poised to explode next year.

[Also: Why blockchain could transform the very nature of EHRs]

Seventy percent of all payers expect blockchain to be integrated into their systems by 2019.

On the other hand, healthcare providers and systems are a bit slow on the uptake. Only 9 percent of healthcare providers and systems have firm plans for blockchain implementation by 2018, which 88 percent of provider leaders said is caused by the undetermined costs.

And only 19 percent of hospital executives said their organizations are considering deploying or currently implementing blockchain.

[Also: Blockchain eyed for potential use cases in revenue cycle]

The biggest hurdle? The unknown costs to blockchain implementation.

But there are highly ranked blockchain vendors hoping to fuel blockchain solutions within the provider spectrum. Black Book also ranked the top vendors in the space by respondents feedback based on their impressions of offerings to date.

Here are the highest ranking blockchain vendors: Blockchain Health, Bloq, Burst IQ, Gem Health, Guardtime, Hashed Health, HealthCombix, IBM Blockchain, Pokitdok, Tierion and YouBase. These vendors received positive services and product perception scores above nine on a scale of 1 to 10.

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
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