HIMSS Analytics European survey finds low awareness of 'clear' blockchain use cases in healthcare

According to recent predictions made by leading experts in the latest issue of Blockchain in Healthcare Today, as stakeholders become more aware of how blockchain could be applied in healthcare, use cases will be fine-tuned and adoption accelerated.

At the moment, however, findings from a HIMSS Analytics survey of more than 360 eHealth professionals in Europe, compiled in a report that will be presented at the HIMSS & Health 2.0 European conference in Helsinki this June, indicate that the technology has not gained a lot of momentum in the sector thus far. The analysis suggests that blockchain-based tools, products and services are “rarely used” in healthcare in Europe, with researchers identifying five key gaps to tackle if this is to be addressed.

1. Knowledge & skills

Although more than 70% of eHealth professionals polled said they were “at least somehow familiar” with blockchain technology, only a small number reported having “deeper knowledge” of the concept and the term – and most of them did not work in health facilities. Consultants and technology providers indicated that they were “more familiar” than potential clients and users, and HIMSS Analytics said this should not be surprising “considering the low prevalence of such technologies in healthcare facilities so far”.


2. Value & use cases

There is still a “great deal of uncertainty” among eHealth professionals in Europe about how blockchain could be applied in healthcare, and while the technology isn’t seen as a “magic pill” that could instantly solve some of the most pressing challenges healthcare systems around the world face nowadays, there is also “no disillusionment”. “The technology is expected to work ‘under the hood’, meaning it is not primarily associated with creating a more patient-centric health experience, but rather to drive innovation and data driven decision making,” researchers said.

3. Regulation

Many of the professionals surveyed also said they believed regulatory and GDPR-related hurdles to be among the main challenges holding back blockchain deployments. “This might be a gap that public health authorities need to address on regional, national or even pan-European levels, but it also is a gap that needs to be addressed at the local level when relevant guidelines, policies or frameworks addressing governance, cybersecurity, reimbursement, and other implications are missing,” HIMSS Analytics cautioned.

4. Brand awareness

With the exception of one or two brands, no vendor has reportedly managed to associate themselves “well” with blockchain, the researchers wrote, as more than 75% of professionals were unable to name any blockchain vendor. “This market is largely uncharted territory from a brand awareness perspective. It provides organisations with a rare opportunity to step into a relatively empty space and associate their brands with an innovative technology and business field that promises to democratise digital transactions. Blockchain consumers need brand awareness in order to have a reference when making decisions to build or buy blockchain-based tools and workflows,” according to the report.

5. Time

Professionals expect blockchain technology to gain traction in healthcare within the next three years, but HIMSS Analytics warns: “The natural road forward seems to be that consulting companies accumulate the experts needed to identify beneficial use cases for blockchain, with software vendors starting to provide products in these areas and healthcare providers eventually starting to purchase these tools. If existing plans will be realised a fair share of early adopters of healthcare providers and software vendors should have blockchain products in use or on offer within the next 3 years. But don’t expect a quick gold rush, most stakeholders are still in their learning phase.”

The HIMSS & Health 2.0 European conference will take place in Helsinki, Finland later this month, with the Playing with Blockchain workshop taking place on 11 June and the Blockchain: Time for a reality check? session on 13 June.  Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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