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By Stephanie Musal • March 9, 2017

Pitfalls of Blockchain in Healthcare

Blockchain is becoming an increasingly popular topic in healthcare. This is part one of a three-part series aimed at helping you understand what Blockchain is, what its benefits and downfalls are for healthcare, and where it fits into your technology stack.

For an overview of blockchain and what it means to healthcare, please refer to the first blog in this series here.

What are the downfalls?

Blockchain technology seems incredibly promising for healthcare. However, it is not without it’s downfalls. We are only now beginning to experience the shift from theory to practice in healthcare with blockchain. Big healthcare players are getting involved and now we are wondering, what could go wrong?

Vendor lock-in

While there are many apparent benefits to switching to a blockchain system, there are still some major pitfalls. Blockchain vendors want customers locked into their platform. This puts too much reliance on the vendor and leaves the consumer virtually powerless over the data and the cost. This also creates the risk of building new data silos where customers rent access from vendors. It’s probably better to wait for large software vendors to adopt the technology than trying to build out new infrastructure from scratch in this case.

Hype overload

People are very excited about Blockchain technology. The smartest thing you can do is be skeptical and ask the hard questions when comparing the new technology against other options. Keep in mind many analysts and professional experts are issuing overly optimistic reports in an effort to make their mark on the industry. Betting on technology before it’s ready is a dangerous game. There is huge potential for innovation with Blockchain but you’ll want to look at options objectively. Especially when you consider tokenized platforms such as Ethereum, which have an incentive to hype the technology to increase the value of their token.

Immature Infrastructure

Healthcare technology moves slowly. This is largely because there are high consequences for failure. People’s lives are on the line with every decision made in healthcare. Pressure to keep patient information safe increases the need and desire for many organizations to use proven technology. Most blockchain technology is experimental and untested. We have yet to see it exist in a production environment.

Patient-Controlled Data

Enabling patients to manage their healthcare data is not only risky but also costly. Training consumers on the proper use of blockchain would likely be overwhelmingly costly for many organizations. If not used properly, information has a higher likelihood of being lost or stolen. We also have to consider the risk of a patient becoming incapacitated. If emergency workers need to gain access to the health records without a patient’s permission, this creates the need for an alternative access method. This alternative access method creates a backdoor security risk.

CloudMine's Prediction

Like many emerging technologies in healthcare, adoption of blockchain will take time. Despite it’s downfalls, blockchain may be the answer healthcare is looking for. Find out what CloudMine thinks in part three of our blockchain series to find out what to expect. In the meantime, share your thoughts with us on twitter @cloudmine or in the comments below.