Blockchain interoperability needs time and momentum to mature toward a wider scale of adoption and to truly impact healthcare. However, the future is now and the market clearly reflects much buzz around the technology and its potential for hard-coding change. Blockchain interoperability could pave the way toward forming a next-generation vehicle for data exchange that contributes to digital transformation in provider organizations through its network effect.
IDC Health Insights Perspective: Blockchain in Health IT Interoperability explores the potential for blockchain in health IT interoperability as an emerging healthcare provider vertical use case. As healthcare begins to explore the application of blockchain technology, it still faces an entrenched challenge to bridge disparate systems through interoperability and health information exchange (HIE). Ever-expanding data reserves in variety, velocity, and volume and paradoxically in silos complicate the interoperability challenge. Furthermore, shifts in population demographics, consumer behaviors, and patient propensities drive an increasing need for effective data exchange through interoperability.
Despite the onset of a new digital era, healthcare struggles with a language disorder in the form of an industrial dysphasia of sorts that sees health systems lacking the ability and proficiency to talk the language of data with one another in meaningful ways. This is not to say that interoperability does not exist or is failing. On the contrary, several types of interoperability frameworks and initiatives facilitate data exchange in healthcare today, to varying degrees of success and penetration, but there are shortcomings (e.g., limitations in the interoperability standard or protocol itself, workflow and policy differences between entities, information blocking, and technology requirements).
While interoperability and HIE frameworks evolve to address a range of challenges in health IT, blockchain could deliver an alternative for where these technologies may fall short. The ability to feasibly exchange data across and beyond the enterprise level with far greater degrees of decentralization, distribution, and immutability makes blockchain a noteworthy proposition for exploring new ways of shaping the future of health IT interoperability. However, whether blockchain will truly empower the industry with new ways of doing interoperability or is just market buzz, for the most part, remains to be seen.
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