While applications of blockchain technology for healthcare have become a hot topic among health IT professionals, especially at conferences, a survey of chief information officers (CIOs) said they believe it’s the most overhyped trend in the field in terms of making an impact within the next two years.
The survey, conducted by Naperville, Illinois-based health IT consultants Impact Advisors, collected responses from 56 hospital and health IT CIOs who are members of College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME).
When asked to pick one technology they think “has the most potential to make an impact” in the next two years, CIOs answered:
- Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) and application programming interfaces (API): 50 percent
- Natural language processing: 16.1 percent
- Cloud computing: 14.3 percent
- Machine learning: 12.5 percent
- Blockchain: 1.8 percent
While blockchain did make the bottom of the list of emerging technologies with the most potential for health IT, it was far and away the leader when CIOs were asked about what’s been overhyped:
- Blockchain: 48.2 percent
- Cloud computing: 23.2 percent
- Machine learning: 7.1 percent
- Natural language processing: 7.1 percent
- FHIR/APIs: 3.6 percent
Payers and pharmaceutical companies have been more excited about the potential of blockchain to create an open and secure online database that cannot be changed and allows for data to be sent and received from multiple outside sources. Pharma and life sciences executives have predicted widespread adoption of healthcare blockchain tools within five years, though as June 2017, few were actually using it.
Hospital and health system CIOs were more focused on “increasing internal operational efficiencies,” with 46.4 percent citing that as their top priority in the Impact Advisors survey. The most significant barrier to IT innovation, according to respondents, was other priorities taking precedence, an obstacle mentioned by 68 percent of CIOs.
The survey found “significant divergence” between health systems on their plans for pushing forward on IT innovation. Only 14.3 percent said they’ve established a dedicated “IT Innovation Center” or department, which Impact Advisors said will make the pace of change uneven across different systems, including uneven adoption of emerging technologies.
“Provider organizations that are able to put structure behind IT innovation and set up the right strategic partnership will get access to technology sooner, learn faster and have many more market leading opportunities with digital health than provider organizations that struggle with IT innovation,” the survey said.