Healthcare Blockchain Is Poised to Transform Patient Care

– Healthcare blockchain technology has the potential to transform patient care, observed Bill Frist, a heart and lung transplant surgeon, former Senate majority leader, and chairman of the executive council of the health service investment firm Cressey & Company.  

Blockchain will be able to break down EHR silos, simplify revenue cycle reconciliation and healthcare supply chains, make patient data more accessible and secure for patients and researchers, and synch data from health trackers and wearables with EHRs, Frist predicted in a recent Forbes article.

“Blockchain is definitely and rapidly moving toward production in real-world healthcare settings. In fact, it’s projected to be a $2 trillion industry … Technology is going to change care as we know it: moving the locus of care into the community, into the home-setting, meeting the patient where they are,” he wrote.

Frist was a keynote speaker at the Distributed: Health conference held in Nashville last week. During his speech, he said that healthcare is “ripe for disruption like no other industry. The reason is, we have very, very, very high cost, which the typical consumer can’t afford, and we have uneven access.”

“When you have high cost and you have uneven access, the macro environment for disruption is huge. And that’s where blockchain is,” he said.

“Without access to current, real data that can be trusted, that is privacy protected, that is distributed … we can’t make any real progress,” Frist added. “Blockchain has the opportunity … to address one of those basic needs of society, which is to make sure that our children have a better life, have better health, than we have.”

Michael Jacobs, senior engineer at Optum, also spoke at the conference. “One of the things we’ve learned about [blockchain] technology is that it’s most suitable when you have multiple organizations involved,” Jacobs said. “You want to steer your ship toward a use case focus.”

Optum is one of a number of healthcare companies that have joined together to form the Synaptic Health Alliance to explore how blockchain can be used to improve healthcare. Other members include Humana, MultiPlan, Quest Diagnostics, and UnitedHealthcare.

Synaptic’s first pilot project, launched in April 2018, is looking into applying blockchain technology to ensure the most current information about healthcare providers is available in the provider directories maintained by health insurers. The pilot is examining how sharing data across healthcare organizations on blockchain technology can improve data accuracy, streamline administration, reduce costs, and improve access to care.

Also speaking at conference was Change Healthcare Product Director Emily Vaughn. “What we’re really trying to do is bring the first smart contract platform to healthcare. What we see is an opportunity to build development tools to allow for healthcare’s engineers to quickly design and build blockchain applications.”

Hashed Health CEO John Bass commented, “If you think about 2016, it was all about community building … 2017 was a lot of enterprise work, a lot of conversations with big insurance companies, big pharma companies … about how enterprises could get involved. Now, in 2018, we’ve seen this shift … The shift that I’ve noticed is that the conversations are much more mature, the audience is much more mature, the level of thought, the practicality … is much more advanced and much more mature than what we’ve seen in the past.”

Solve.Care CEO Pradeep Goel predicted that once the return on investment (ROI) is clearly demonstrated the use cases for blockchain in healthcare will “flood in.”

“Healthcare is ready to adopt blockchain [technology] if you can demonstrate clear ROI,” said Goel. “This is not an issue of when blockchain will start working in healthcare. It is starting to work.”

Using blockchain technology, Solve.Care has developed digital wallet and token to enable seamless data exchange and payments between providers and patients. The Arizona Care Network is currently using its product, he said. 

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