Blockchain Rises at SXSW



South by Southwest (SXSW) has wrapped up in Austin, TX.  This annual 10-day convergence of music, media and technology that began in 1967 has grown over the years to become known as the conference of the year for creative innovation.  SXSW Interactive, the technology focused sub-conference has become the biggest, most important emerging technology conference in the world.  It is known as a breeding ground for new ideas and creative tech.  Among the trends that SXSW focused on this year, the two areas that garnered the most attention were AI and Blockchain.

Blockchain was a brand new addition to the 2018 lineup.  The conference had a series of sessions that focused on how blockchain will “revolutionize all data-driven transactional systems” in areas such as healthcare, entertainment, finance, mobility, and social good.   These sessions were led by top innovators such in the blockchain space.



Highlights included:

  • Joe Lubin (CEO Consensys) & Laura Shin- Why Ethereum Is Going To Change The World
  • Amber Baldet (Exec Director Blockchain Program at JP Morgan) & Brian Behlendorf (Exec Director Hyperledger)- Business on the Blockchain
  • Kathleen Breitman (Co-founder Tezos), Michael Casey (Sr Advisor Digital Currency Initiative at MIT Media Lab), Vinny Lingham (CEO Civic), and Paul Vigna (Reporter Wall Street Journal)- Bitcoin and the New World of Programmable Money
  • John Bass (Founder / CEO Hashed Health), Aaron Symanski (CTO Change Healthcare), Dominique Hurley (VP Strategic Partnerships & Innovation Healthverity), Beth Breeden (Assoc Professor Pharmacy, Lipscomb University)- Blockchain and the Crisis in Healthcare

Blockchain and the Crisis in Healthcare

Moderator:  John Bass (Founder & CEO, Hashed Health)

Panelists: Aaron Symanski (CTO, Change Healthcare), Dominique Hurley (VP Strategic Partnerships & Innovation, Healthverity), Beth Breeden (Assoc Professor Pharmacy, Lipscomb University

The crisis was defined by the group as largely a financial crisis of our own making.  The primary drivers of the crisis are prices and administrative burden.  Though blockchain is young and has its challenges, the panel agreed that the technology is an enabler because of its ability to address issues of trust, transparency and incentive alignment.  This can have a major impact in areas such as medical records, clinical trials, payments, insurance design, and behavior.

Blockchain-based medical records was a center of attention for a large section of the panel, as well as much of the Q&A.  While there was consensus around the medical records use case, there was some disagreement on how quickly this would happen.  This is certainly not going to be the first healthcare application on the blockchain to scale.  The benefits of carrying a longitudinal health record on your phone is most attractive to pockets of patients, not the general public.  Many companies have tried to tackle this problem over the years.  “What has the blockchain changed?” was a point of debate amongst the panelists.  Challenges still exist around data protection and consumer incentives.  The answers could take some time to understand.

So what projects will move more quickly?  The panelists focused this section of the discussion on Hashed Health’s Professional Credentials Exchange and Change Healthcare’s claims transparency product as two examples of 2018 initiatives that solve real problems in today’s world.

For Hashed Health, provider licensure and credentialing is the perfect initial use case.  It has an ROI.  It has an innovative “exchange” business model that does not threaten incumbents, and it does not deal with sensitive information like PHI.

For Change Healthcare, a product that can “accurately track, in real time, the status of claims submission and remittance across the complete claim lifecycle” has tremendous strategic value.  By starting with Change’s own claims process, Change Healthcare argues can begin a process by which they use blockchain to solve a real problem while learning about how to scale the technology out to a larger and larger network.

Other near term use cases discussed included Lipscomb’s collaboration with Hashed around creating a shared ledger for recording graduation data on the blockchain, where they are providing transparency to the market while reducing their back-office overhead associated with manual graduate verification processes.  Healthverity is working on a e-consent application that they feel can move quickly as well.


Nashville Panel


Spotlight on Nashville

Also in the spotlight at SXSW2018 was the city of Nashville.  John Bass participated in a panel with Nashville-based technology leaders including Sal Novin from Cognizant, Kearstin Patterson from HCA and Lindsey Cox from LaunchTN.  The panel was filmed live for the Comcast SXSW Lounge series.  The topic Comcast wanted to discuss was Nashville as a healthcare technology innovation hub.

Nashville has become a national hub for the creative class, enjoying the competitive advantages of a creative culture, a well-educated population, and a thriving tech industry which has become a leading force in the region’s growth, with thousands of technology job opportunities in fields from music and entertainment to healthcare to enterprise software development.

A few stats, according to Brian Moyer of the Nashville Technology Council:

  • Per capita income above national average
  • Cost of living below national average
  • A national hub for the creative class
  • #1 in the nation for job growth from 2015-2016 – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 9/17
  • #2 in the nation for job growth over the past decade – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 9/17
  • Home to 18 publicly traded healthcare companies generating $38 billion in local economic impact and more than $84 billion globally
  • Home to one of the fastest growing technology sectors with 2,346 tech business (up 16% in the past year) and 41,233 tech workers
  • #8 hottest city for tech jobs according to Money Magazine 6/17
  • #7 in the country for the growth of tech jobs according to Forbes 8/17

Furthermore, Nashville specializes in healthcare. Nashville is differentiated by its impressive concentration of HIT assets that includes 40% of the investor owned hosptals in the US and over 4000 healthcare companies (18 of which are publically traded).

This sets Nashville up very well to be a center of gravity for the next generation of healthcare companies that will use technology such as blockchain, AI, ML, and IoT.

Healthcare is about to go through a wave of innovation unleashed by the convergence of these technologies.  This wave is coming at the right time as our government and our industries are being eaten away by healthcare costs.  The panel discussed these opportunities and how we plan to cap

In addition, the panel discussed how Nashville’s collaborative culture can help it harness this moment to bring together diverse resources around the health crisis.

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  1. […] but the hype for blockchain in health care is so large that South By Southwest organized a panel called “Blockchain and the Crisis in Healthcare,” featuring the two above-named […]

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