70% of payers plan to integrate blockchain by 2019

Despite the hype surrounding blockchain technology, there are few real-world applications within healthcare.

That could change significantly in the near future.

The health insurance industry is preparing for a massive shift over the next year, with 70% percent of payers planning to have blockchain technology integrated into their systems by the beginning of 2019, according to a survey published (PDF) by Black Book Research.

The nation’s larger payers are even more invested. Ninety-eight percent of organizations with more than 500,000 members are actively considering or in the process of deploying blockchain. Fourteen percent of those companies said they are currently testing those solutions.

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The survey, which included responses from 88 payers and 276 providers, showed providers are considerably less invested. Just 19% of hospital executives said their organization was either considering or in the process of implementing the distributed ledger technology.

A more robust understanding of the technology coupled with growing cybersecurity threats is driving interest among payers. But payers are also waiting for some clarity from the federal government.

"The lack of technical standards for this still-immature technology is causing regulatory uncertainty while the industry anticipates explanations from federal rules at some point in 2018,” Doug Brown, managing partner at Black Book, said in a release.

For those in both the provider and payer communities, blockchain technology used for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have been particularly alluring as a way to facilitate information sharing. But it's still an unproven technology in the industry, and at least one researcher has voiced concerns that it’s not a foolproof solution.