The application of blockchain technology in the healthcare industry will bring great benefits, most important being accuracy of data and lowering of cost.
Just as a reminder, blockchain technology provides these key facets:
- a low-cost decentralized ledger approach to managing information (replicated at each node without any central hub),
- giving simultaneous access to all parties a single body of strongly encrypted data (almost impossible for hackers to get to data),
- creates an audit trail each time data is changed helping to ensure the integrity and authenticity of the information,
- patients can see their data and will authorize other parties (doctors, hospitals, insurers).
Current problems in the healthcare industry is all about multiple sources of data for the patients and hence incorrect information which adds to cost. The various entities like hospital, doctor’s office, and insurance all maintain their own database and synchronization becomes a real issue and often causes error. Blockchain is a real solution to these ills. Several examples of applying blockchain are in the development stage.
- Change Healthcare, a Nashville-based health network has introduced a blockchain system for processing insurance claims. While not all providers in the system are using it yet, the shared ledger of encrypted data represents a “single source of truth”. All involved parties can see the same accurate information about a claim in real time (rather than sending data back and forth). This relieves a patient from having to call multiple parties to verify information (a practice we all are familiar with). Each time the data is changed, a record of it is shown on the digital ledger identifying the responsible party. Any changes also require verification by each party involved, again enforcing the record’s accuracy
- Last April, a group of companies like Humana Inc., Multiplan Inc., Quest Diagnostics Inc., and United Health Group’s Optum announced a pilot project using blockchain to have online directories of doctors and healthcare providers. Typically doctor groups, hospitals, insurers and diagnostic companies maintain their own online listings of contacts, practices and biographical details. Not only it is expensive, but they have to continually check and verify the accuracy of these directories. Using blockchain, a substantial saving (almost 75%) will occur. The goal of the pilot program is for providers to update their information themselves into the blockchain where all parties in the network can view it.
- The MIT Media lab is developing a system called MedRec based on blockchain. Patients can manage their own records and give permission to doctors and providers to access and update the records. Success of the system or any such system will depend on large number of providers and doctors opting in to the program.
Most of the early efforts are in the “proof of concept” stage. But the potential of blockchain to help lower the healthcare cost and provide timely accurate information is very promising.