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Dissecting the HIMSS Blockchain Buzz


At HIMSS, we asked dozens of attendees what buzzwords were starting to wear on them. A few words broke away from the pack.

At HIMSS 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada, one of our recurring interview questions was “What healthtech buzzword are you starting to get tired of?” Answers varied, but by far one of the most frequent responses was “blockchain.”

In this roundup, 4 respondents told us why the word was already starting to wear on them. Subjects are, in order, Medicomp Systems Chief Medical Officer Jay Anders, MD, CynergisTek CEO Mac McMillan, CynergisTek Vice President of Cybersecurity Strategy John Nye, and Rush University Medical Center Chief Analytics Officer Bala Hota, MD.

Transcript: Dissecting the Blockchain Buzz

Jay Anders, MD: Everybody now has jumped on the blockchain wagon.

Mac McMillan: I think right now it is overrated.

John Nye: I laughed as soon as you said blockchain.

Jay Anders: I find its utility in healthcare marginal.

Nye: Yes, it’s definitely become a buzzword that has more behind it than is really there.

McMillan: Not yet. A lot of talk and not a lot of action.

Bala Hota, MD: There are definitely use cases, but you can even see where companies that change their name to have the word “blockchain” in it so that they’ll boost their stock price. I think in healthcare there’s no exception.

McMillan: You put “blockchain” in your title and all of a sudden you’re a forward-thinking company.

Anders: Blockchain has been used in industry, mostly manufacturing, warehousing, and things like that.

Nye: It’s not bad. It’s not made up. Absolutely. Like I said, it has applications, and I’ve seen them, like security logs, for example. It’s a good way to do that because you can make sure your logs are unaltered, because when I go in and attack a network, once I get my domain admin, one of the first things I do is get rid of all the evidence that I was there. Well, if it’s going into a blockchain, you can’t do that, so that’s one really good use. But it could all be used for even medical procedures. You could use it for that. You could ensure that those records are unalterable. That’s really the key.

McMillan: I think we ought to put together both a group of developers who understand that technology, that technical ledger, and the consumer experts out of healthcare, and put them together and say, ‘OK, let’s develop use cases, and we can then go develop solutions that perhaps will work and add benefit to the industry.’ But at the end of the day, at some point, all these guys talking about blockchain are going to have to produce something, and they haven’t done it yet.

Anders: How we can use blockchain technology or blockchain management for healthcare? I don’t think that’s going anywhere. I think it’s another set of things that are people trying to develop and sell. We’ll see what happens in the next couple of years. It’s good for industry, not great for healthcare.

Nye: Just like with anything else, vet it. Make sure that it’s really a good use of the technology and that it’s a real product, not just some fly-by-night.

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