An increasing number of companies and researchers have come to a realization that blockchain — a permanent, openly accessible record of transactions — can make sharing and access data more easy and efficient. Earlier on Monday, five healthcare firms namely– Humana, MultiPlan, Quest Diagnostics, Optum, and UnitedHealthcare — announced that the innovative technology has intrigued them and they would be launching a pilot program to test if blockchain technology can maintain and update health plan provider directories.
Traditionally, healthcare systems and physicians maintain separate copies of provider data, such as a doctor’s name, address and specialty, as well as which insurance they admit. Combining the differences in their data is quite time-consuming and also costs a fortune. As per an estimate is given by the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare, a non-profit organization (NGO), a minimum of $2.1 billion in spending every year by the commercial healthcare industry for collecting and maintaining provider data.
The healthcare organization claims that the introduction of blockchain could help in reducing administrative costs by making sure that the data is complete and accurate across all parties.
Mike Jacobs, Senior Distinguished Engineer at Optum expressed his opinions, by saying “The nature of the blockchain technology indeed offers itself to the formation of cooperating alliances like this,”, he further added, “Whenever a situation arrives where there’s a lot of reconciliation and synchronization, it’s a great use case for blockchain.”
The rise of Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency was the main factor contributing in bringing the blockchain into the spotlight. However, the technology spreads its application well beyond cryptocurrencies and is now being implemented to confirm whether food ordered online is legit and also to make that prescription drugs are not bogus.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, are working on developing a blockchain system that allows people to securely share their medical data so it can be utilized to train an AI algorithm for detecting breast cancer. Electronic medical records may also be benefitted from blockchain as MedRec has revealed that it would implement the technology for developing a decentralized content management system for healthcare data across providers.
The new experiment will check if utilizing blockchain to share data across healthcare organizations can improve accuracy, streamline administrative activities and further improve access to care. It will also examine whether sharing provider data inputs and changes made by parties across a blockchain platform can lower operational costs and improve data quality.
Speaking on these plans, Lidia L. Fonseca, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Quest Diagnostics said, “Not only is the quality of the data more complete and more accurate, the decisions made on that [data] are going to be a lot more punctual and effective as well,”, She also went on to add, “It also possesses the ability to minimize the burden, because the five of us are not going to separately maintain our own sets of all this. We will have it in this co-owned, co-operated blockchain environment.”
Jacob believes that the health industry is still a year or two away from utilizing the blockchain for things like personal health information. However, as the technology continues to develop, it would provide patients with a single source to view, aggregate and share their health history, regardless of where they are or which supplier or payer was included.
Jacob added, “The blockchain technology is still a nascent one,”, as he also added, “Its abilities are transitioning from those of a public blockchain from things like bitcoin into enterprise capabilities where we have regulatory, security, privacy and scalability concerns that aren’t necessarily addressed by some of the technology stacks in today’s time.”