How Should Radiologists Think About Blockchain?

What do medical records, teleradiology, supply chain management, credentialing, and clinical research all have in common? They all are potential use cases for blockchain technology.

In a March 26 presentation to the Society for Imaging Informatics, Woojin Kim, M.D., chief medical information officer in the healthcare division of Nuance Communications, explained some of things he thinks radiologists need to know about blockchain — both positives and challenges. Kim was a co-founder of Montage Healthcare Solutions, which was acquired by Nuance in 2016. Previously Kim had served as interim chief of division of musculoskeletal imaging, director of the Center for Translational Imaging Informatics, and chief of radiography at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Kim began with a basic tutorial on what blockchain is. It creates a decentralized, distributed ledger, and databases that are immutable.

“Blockchain and its potential benefit of decentralized management, immutable audit trails and improved security are being leveraged in other industries such as finance and retail,” he noted. “Although you don’t hear as much about it as you do about artificial intelligence, there are a number of efforts to use this technology in healthcare,” adding that it has the potential to benefit radiology.” However, he added that there are many privacy and security challenges blockchain needs to overcome before it can be adopted. “As it becomes more widely adopted and the technology improves, it will be important for radiology professionals to be more familiar with it and understand when to use it and when not to.”