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Doctors Aren’t Tuned In To Blockchain News

Posted on March 28, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Sure, there are doctors who are knee-deep in clinical informatics work. Others may not work in IT full-time, but they keep an eye on IT developments and feel comfortable using new technology.

Then, of course, there are physicians who only interact with technology when they must (and yes this is probably the biggest group). They skim or even ignore technology articles in their favorite magazines and journals, and you’re not likely to see them comparing notes on the advantage of one EHR vs. another. In other words, when it comes to health IT, they’re definitely not trendy.

Even so, I was surprised to see how many physicians were out of the loop when it came to blockchain technology. According to a poll by physician-oriented site SERMO, which asked whether blockchain was ready to enter the healthcare world 25% said yes and 28% said no, but a far larger number (47%) responded that they weren’t aware of this technology.

I have a few theories as to why this is the case:

  • Though many vendors are experimenting with integrating blockchain into EHRs, working models are far from common at this point
  • Most physicians are overwhelmed by using EHRs as they currently exist, and aren’t too likely to contemplate adding even more complexity to their platform
  • Too few of their actual peers — practicing doctors working in traditional settings — have attempted to explain the basics of blockchain tech
  • Even high-level health IT experts are still grappling with the problem of how, exactly, healthcare tools can benefit from incorporating blockchain

The truth is, it’s not too surprising to see that many doctors have tuned out blockchain discussions, and probably other bleeding edge technologies like AI as well.  Until these technologies are more mature, and vendors can demonstrate a day-to-day use for them, why would your average physician take time out of their crazy day to ponder what the health IT whiz kids are talking about this week?

And honestly, until someone can demonstrate that blockchain offers real benefits to practicing physicians, I think they’re actually wise to step back from it for the time being. Unless they are natural techies who really want to experiment with blockchain options, there’s little for them to gain from pursuing a topic. Right now, it doesn’t affect them much.

Yes, the time will come when blockchain features are incorporated into EHRs, and vendors can demonstrate why this matters. In the meantime, physicians’ indifference seems very logical.

Blockchain in Healthcare

Posted on February 8, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’m predicting that one of the hot topics at the HIMSS 2018 Annual conference in 3 weeks is going to be blockchain. I must admit that I’m a little torn on blockchain and what its impact will be on healthcare. I see the potential, but we still have a way to go with the technology. For example, it needs to find a way that it can scale.

Those specific issues aside I had two recent experiences that have me thinking more and more about blockchain and healthcare.

The first came from Jim Tate who shared “Death of the Middleman: Healthcare & Blockchain.” Jim is one of the bright, intelligent, pragmatic people I look to for insights into the industry. He’s got deep experience and understanding of the healthcare machine. So, it always causes me to wake up a little when he’s espousing something like he is with blockchain.

Jim’s comments are really fascinating as far as blockchain having the potential to be revolutionary while other things like 3D Printing, AI, and Cloud being evolutionary or as he calls them “The Next Big Thing.” We could have a discussion about whether these things are, have been, or will be revolutionary, but I agree with Jim Tate the blockchain has much more potential to be revolutionary. That’s exciting. As I dig into it more, I can see some little aha moments for how Blockchain’s distributed nature can change a lot of things. That’s really exciting even though we’re still in the early days. It’s close to when people saw Netscape for the first time. You could see the potential, but there’s still a lot of things that need to be built out and problems to solve.

The other experience I had recently was having lunch with a friend who has dove head first into blockchain ICO (Initial Coin Offering) consulting. Without going into all the details and discussion of ICOs, it was crazy to hear him talk about all the companies that are willing to gain his consulting wisdom and influence (he has a few hundred thousand followers on Twitter) in return for what he called funny money and they’d call coins. On paper, those coins can be worth a lot, but it depends on a lot of things. They could also end up being worth nothing. That’s what makes it all so scary and crazy. I live in Vegas and this feels much crazier than any gamble on the strip. At least on the strip there are clear odds for how much you’re going to lose. With ICOs and other blockchain efforts, it’s anyone’s guess.

The message I got is that we’re entering a different world that’s going to be hard to understand and comprehend if you don’t really dig into it. Could it lead to a blockchain bubble pop similar to what happened with the internet and the dotcom bubble pop? Absolutely. Some are already saying it’s happening now as bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have dropped dramatically in value. While it bears watching, I think the blockchain bubble (which I should note is different than bitcoin or even cryptocurrency) is just starting to grow. I don’t think we’re close to it blowing up.

While this wild speculation is scary for me to consider, this type of wild investment and speculation could be a great thing and some might argue is a necessary part of blockchain maturing. All the crazy investment will hopefully sift the wheat from the tares and better help us understand what’s good and what’s bad with blockchain. It’s a necessary part of its maturation.

What does this mean for healthcare? I’m not sure. I’m still watching and trying to learn as we go like everyone else. On the one hand, it’s exciting but there’s plenty to be feared. I’d love to hear your thoughts on blockchain and healthcare. Will it have an impact for good, bad, or other? Let us hear your thoughts in the comments.

Could Blockchain Tech Tackle Health Data Security Problems?

Posted on March 25, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

While you might not own any them, you’ve probably heard of bitcoins, a floating currency backed by no government entity. You may also be aware that these coins are backed by blockchain technology, a decentralized system in which all participants track everyone’s holdings on their own individual systems. In this world, buyers and sellers can exchange bitcoins untraceably, making bitcoins perfect for criminal use.

In fact, some readers may have first heard about bitcoins when a Hollywood, CA hospital recently had all its data assets frozen by malware hackers, who demanded a ransom of $3.4 million in bitcoins before the hospital could have its data back. (The hospital ended up talking the ransomware attackers down to paying $17K, and when it paid that sum, IT leaders got back control.)

What’s intriguing, however, is that blockchain technology may also be a solution for some of healthcare’s most vexing health data security problems. That, at least, is the view of Peter Nichol, a veteran healthcare business and technology executive consultant. As he sees it, “blockchain addresses the legitimate previous concerns of security, scalability and privacy of electronic medical records.”

In his essay posted on LinkedIn Nichol describes a way in which the blockchain can be used in healthcare data management:

  1. Patient: The patient is provided a code (private key or hash) and an address that provides the codes to unlock their patient data.  While the patient data is not stored in the blockchain, the blockchain provides the authentication or required hashes (multi-signatures, also referred to as multi-sigs) to be used to enable access to the data (identification and authentication).
  2. Provider: Contributors to patient’s medical records (e.g. providers) are provided a separate universal signature (codes or hashes or multi-sigs). These hashes when combined with the patient’s hash establishes the required authentication to unlock the patient’s data.
  3. Profile: Then the patient defines in their profile, the access rules required to unlock their medical record.
  4. Access: If the patient defines 2-of-2 codes, then two separate computer machines (the hashes) would have to be compromised to gain unauthorized access to the data. (In this case, establishing unauthorized privileged access becomes very difficult when the machines types differ, operating systems differ and are hosted with different providers.)

As Nichol rightly notes, blockchain strategies offer some big advantages over existing security, particularly given that keys are distributed and that multiple computers but need to be compromised for attackers to gain access to illicit data.

Nichols’ essay also notes that blockchain technology can be used to provide patients with more sophisticated levels of privacy control over their personal health information. As he points out, the patient can use their own blockchain signature, combined with, say, that of a hospital to provide more secure access when seeking treatment. Meanwhile, when they want to limit access to the data it’s easy to do so.

And voila, health data maintenance problems are solved, he suggests. “This model lifts the costly burden of maintaining a patient’s medical histories away from the hospitals,” he argues. “Eventually cost savings will make it full cycle back to the patient receiving care.”

What’s even more interesting is that Nichols is clearly not just a voice in the wilderness. For example, Philips Healthcare recently made an early foray into blockchain technology, partnering with blockchain-based record-keeping startup Tierion.

Ultimately, whether Nichols is entirely on target or not, it seems clear that health IT players have much to gain by exploring use of blockchain technology in some form. In fact, I predict that 2016 will be a breakout year for this type of application.