Amazon recently announced the availability of Blockchain Templates.  There are many questions related to the significance of the announcement, and these questions may also be in the minds of Healthcare executives who are following new developments related to Blockchain, Amazon’s moves to enter the Healthcare market, and potential ramifications.

Why is Amazon choosing Healthcare as one of the two key industries to unveil Blockchain Templates? 

Most infrastructure vendors/hosting providers will comply with the most stringent security and quality certifications. The Healthcare and the Financial industries require the highest compliance, security and certification standards. Companies in these industries also require improved security as they are being subjected to constant cyberattack. Not coincidentally, they are two of the richest industries by GDP domestic contribution, holding valuable transactional and personal data.  So it’s natural for vendors to address Healthcare immediately, as Blockchain is a leap forward in security.

But more concretely, Amazon Web Services (AWS) may have a significant reason to do so. By becoming a leading provider of Blockchain as a Service in the Healthcare industry, Amazon positions itself to capture early healthcare Blockchain adopters, anticipating the eventual industry majority conversion to Blockchain, and furthering Amazon’s penetration in the sector, while vying to become a large Healthcare player. Oddly, the biggest issue that could work against AWS is also their key strength — infrastructure self-serving at low cost. While self-serving may appeal to vendors and smaller companies, it may not appeal to larger players in Healthcare. How the service is provided matters to major players.

Will this accelerate meaningful innovation for helping transform business in the healthcare industry?  

AWS Blockchain Templates does not significantly modify the equation per se, other than offering a convenient Blockchain path ahead. What matters most is choosing the right Blockchain framework for the enterprise, and with all the Blockchain framework development ongoing behind the scenes, this is not a trivial choice. 

Selecting a solid framework that supports the right application capabilities for the company’s business needs is key to a successful Blockchain implementation. 

A Blockchain framework is a collection of methods, templates and tools to expedite the production of Blockchain applications. Frameworks differentiate by emphasizing business capabilities and specific support for industry needs.  It also means – that at this point in the Blockchain adoption curve – there is a lot of (confusing) noise created by framework vendors rushing into the market, vying for dominance. But alliances have already begun to form. Technology leaders and Healthcare industry players are throwing their support behind their choice of framework. Some examples:

  • Hyperledger and its flavors — Fabric, Sawtooth, IROHA, Burrow, INDY (Linux, IBM, accenture, Gem, Hashed Health, IBM, Kaiser Permanente)
  • Ethereum (Ethereum Foundation)
  • CoCo (Microsoft — Azure Blockchain governance, Healthcare)
  • Edgeverve (Finacle/Infosys, Financial industry)
  • R3 Corda (BFSI industry)
  • Multichain
  • Openblockchain

So which framework to use? AWS Blockchain Templates supports Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum, the two frameworks that AWS considers to be the two leading frameworks. The important questions are a) will either of these two frameworks have the right capabilities to support Healthcare security needs, and b) will either of these two frameworks evolve the business capabilities in support of Healthcare company business flow, without fear of future limitations. Because the complexity of converting from one Blockchain framework to another is at best unknown, at worse Wild West territory. A bad bet could entail a very costly bill later.

If Blockchain is widely adopted outside of Healthcare as it appears to be, it will definitely cause a significant transformation of business as usual. As an example, Blockchain is now being applied not only to securing transactions, but also to change how passwords are handled (, to centralize personal information ( and for identity management (, three of the most common sources of human error and data exposure. Expect that as time progresses more and more of our common security-related functions will move into Blockchain.

You should also consider that Blockchain is being augmented with Sidechains. A Sidechain is a Blockchain that relies on an underlying cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, as the means to perform complete transactions, including payment itself. Assuming a commonly-accepted cryptocurrency, it will be possible to effect actual payments with Sidechains. 

If Sidechains become common, they will have a profound disruptive effect on currencies and global trade, on how consumers conduct business, the banking industry, and everything else surrounding payments. 

So it is safe to say that a wave of innovation is coming, and it will have an internal and external impact in Healthcare. AWS Blockchain Templates is just the beginning of the transition into Blockchain.

Given that companies like UHG, Optum and Humana are now starting to look to blockchain for provider directories… what might we see actually happen to the industry as this unfolds more broadly?  

As with any disruptive technology, the path to transformation is not so simple. Blockchain offers a much needed improvement in shielding information from potential hackers, as well as establishing indisputable precedence in transactions. But converting from existing legacy payment systems to Blockchain won’t be trivial, as much of the code in these systems will have to be updated to address a Blockchain backbone. 

The larger question that looms is whether the adoption of Blockchain will simplify the overall payment and surrounding data processes, will potentially make them more complex, or perhaps will change nothing due to pre-existing legacy intricacies that are not security related.  And that is the gist of the issue — enterprise with significant legacy and complex processing systems will most likely adapt slowly rather than adopt and replace ipso facto. 

The path to transformation in Healthcare will likely see Blockchain adoption in pinpointed areas. Keywords caution and assessment. The first deployments will initially provide a step up in security in those areas, followed by an assessment to establish how far and wide can Blockchain effectively be deployed. A long evolution path will ensue, to manage Blockchain implementation impact on overall transactional and data processing changes, factoring in the process legacy requirements, legacy constrains, M&A and market changes. Only later will non-transactional systems follow, if possible. It’s a long road.  But – and this is anyone’s bet – assuming that Blockchain is adopted worldwide as analysts predict, transformation will be inevitable. 

That’s why we already see players creating alliances, e.g. Hyperledger working very closely with IBM and Kaiser Permanente, or Microsoft’s CoCo courting healthcare companies, or AWS announcing Blockchain Templates hedging their bets on the two top flavors. Vendors are competing and taking bets to be players in the newly announced world order under Blockchain. Strategically, those who are not in control of Blockchain will be at it’s mercy.  

Is this just really part of flavor of the moment for trends OR is it one specific technology innovation that healthcare should be focused on in a deeper way than other areas of technology?

Blockchain is definitely not a flavor nor a buzzword of the moment, it is here to stay. For enterprises adopting it, it is deeply transformational. In a digital world where not much is beyond hacking, Bitcoin has relied on Blockchain for 8 years without a hacking incident.  Folks in highly-regualted at-risk industries have taken notice. Interest has risen to a very high level, and adoption continues into an early majority stage. Today many viable frameworks, from known players, are vying for leadership. Blockchain is definitely here, and AWS Blockchain Templates are a piece of the on-ramp puzzle.