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Blockchain: what to know before investing in technology

While the overall impact of the blockchain could still be questioned, it is hard to argue that there is no widespread interest among C-suites regarding what ledger registry technology could bring to their businesses.

Almost three out of four managers could see a "convincing business case" for blockchain, and about a third claimed that a certain type of blockchain system was already in place in their organization, according to a Deloitte survey published in August. Specifically for the health sector, 55% of executives said they believed the technology will be disruptive and over 60% believe that their business will be disadvantaged if they do not start to explore blockchain.

So, how does an organization take the first step and decide if the blockchain really is worth the investment? For Optum – who has been investigating on blockchain for two and a half years and now headline Synaptic Health Alliance, a seven organizations pilot blockchain Focused on the efficiency of maintaining health care providers' directories: understanding what technology is capable of and how these characteristics relate to the specifics of a single business problem.

"Much of our work has tried to communicate, distinguish and examine use cases according to the" should "and" possible "criteria, said Mike Jacobs, a distinguished senior engineer with Optum Health and the company's blockchain spokesperson." In the beginning it was a little groping in the dark. First of all, we had to distinguish between what was real compared to what was hype. And once we understand what technology could actually do in its current form, I asked the question "What characteristics of the business problem would lead me to conclude that blockchain is a good idea?" "

When its blockchain initiatives were taken off, Optum developed its own set of criteria suitable for the purpose that the blockchain implementation would have to meet before receiving serious consideration, explained Jacobs. In the end these criteria took the form of an online survey tool asking the user a handful of direct questions about the nature of their step – for example, if multiple parties need to write data, if there is already a legal contract between entities, or if a field level control.

Having this kind of process has allowed the company to provide high-level guidance on the applicability of the blockchain to a specific use case, or if an idea would have to be reworked before progressing further an initial phase. Equally important, says Jacobs, the instrument itself significantly reduces the amount of time lost for steps that would never see the light of day.

"It's just a matter of learning curve, and then it turns the question in terms of business," he said. "We ask people to use it at first, so unless you get a positive response, you should probably go back and think back to what cases of use to consider, which helped to scale down requests because we often Just to see "I have to meet you for an hour and talk about this to see if it's a good use case." And we were like, "We need an online tool to help filter this. & # 39; "

If a step meets the predetermined criteria, however, Jacobs has stated that his company will launch a more in-depth investigation into the proposal through a cost-benefit analysis. This "research phase" includes a more rigorous look at the business problem, the suitability for the purpose, the costs associated with any process being replaced and the annual savings or revenue increase that may result from its implementation.

From there, the field faces a formal financing decision, where the cost of a consolidated demonstration of implementation of the concept and the potential benefits of successful distribution are measured against the budget allocated to that group.

"This proof of concept could be a secondary job that the organization uses in parallel with the existing process to verify it [the initial proposal’s] hypotheses are true. And maybe there is a crucial point there, where the demonstration of the concept evolves to better meet the needs of the use case, "said Jacobs." At least inside [UnitedHealthcare Group]Optum is a very disciplined approach we've taken to make sure we're not just doing a lot of science experiments for fun, and making sure we're doing something useful for the business. "

Regarding the broader panorama of blockchain investments, Jacobs said that he still sees another five years until the concept of often proposed longitudinal clinical file becomes feasible, while other implementations involving the coordination of shared benefits or accumulators are very more realistic in the short term. Regardless of any particular angle, however, he was firmly convinced that the organizations involved should move quickly.

"If there's interest to start investing in blockchain, you need to start now and stay up to date.The landscape changes on a monthly basis in terms of technology evolution, so I'd say if you're one of the first to adopt, start and have someone dedicated to technology and keeping up with what's going on in the industry "He said.

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