Evolution of Blockchain in Healthcare : The View From Inside the Industry

August 17, 2018

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In what was considered a pivotal moment for blockchain in healthcare, five prominent healthcare groups announced in April that they would be launching a blockchain-based pilot with the aim of improving on healthcare data quality and reduction in administrative costs.


The five organizations involved – Humana, Quest Diagnostics, MultiPlan, and UnitedHealth Group’s Optum and UnitedHealthcare said in a press release that “providing consumers looking for care with accurate information when they need it is essential to a high-functioning overall healthcare system.”


Blockchain in healthcare is gaining momentum


A little over four months on from that announcement we have seen other healthcare IT specialists jump aboard the blockchain bandwagon, and while results or comments from the initial group who made the announcement in April are thin on the ground for the moment, it’s safe to say that blockchain in healthcare is gaining momentum.


Healthcare Informatics recently spoke to two key figures at New York-based healthcare analytics company KPMG about the initiative announced in April, the most significant use cases of blockchain in healthcare at the moment, and the potential timeline for providers to move into full-scale projects.


When asked about blockchain in healthcare at the moment, current use cases and what people within the industry are most bullish about, Michael B. Yetter, director, healthcare management consulting had the following to say –


“From a client perspective, things are a bit on the early side.”


“But [we often see that] as many emerging technologies gain momentum in some other sectors, you will see the pathway through pharma and then into healthcare with payers and providers.


We are seeing that same pattern here. On the ground in the healthcare space, especially amongst payers and providers, we’re starting to see more interest in meaningful pilots. We have had some earlier adopters doing proof of concepts and pilots—many around claims or aspects of claims management, and some around the regulatory impacts of the supply chain.”


“We are starting to see the nature of conversations around what those use cases could be become increasingly sophisticated around things such as consortiums on provider data, and making sure the historical challenges around getting provider data to agree across multiple entities—who are either submitting or processing claims—that those specific data elements or attributes or shared or reconciled in a better way. So that’s one good example for where you are starting to see collaboration.”



Seeing multiple major players involved is encouraging


When asked about the initiative featuring the five healthcare companies mentioned above, Yetter commented that “from an outside view, and we haven’t been directly involved, it’s my understanding that this collaboration is focused on provider data sharing.”


“I would classify that as more meaningful because they are bringing multiple parties together to solve for a specific use case and problem. So it goes beyond the earliest conversations, going back a year or more, that were more about learning and understanding the technology. Now they are saying that they get the technology, so let me apply this to a problem we have and something that we can enhance in the industry. And seeing multiple big players involved is encouraging.”


Posed with the question that the most significant use of blockchain in healthcare could be improving on health information exchanges, Arun Ghosh, KPMG’s US leader for blockchain commented that “part of this [potential] disruptive model is that it’s the true democratization of healthcare data—if my data is now being ‘streamed’ into a blockchain, I have ownership of it.”


“So the hypothesis of value here is that if the individual can control his or her data, and then can choose who to share it with—the plan, provider, or someone like Nike or Under Armour—the concept is that there are rewards, such as avoiding rehospitalizations.”


Augmentative rather than disruptive


When asked how healthcare organizations can prepare their infrastructures to implement blockchain in healthcare in the future Ghosh continued – “The big thing to recognize is that the way enterprise blockchain is evolving, from an infrastructure perspective, it is becoming augmentative rather than disruptive.”


“So you can take an EHR and then you can augment the whole EHR workflow, from encounter to discharge, on the blockchain, [while maintaining] what the traditional EHR looks like. You don’t have to transmit all the data, like you would do in a data warehouse, into another ecosystem. You can leave it as source and hash parts of it on the blockchain as you build the blocks along the workflow. The enterprise blockchain vendors are making this easy to adopt.”


A lot of energy and investment


When both Ghosh and Yetter were asked for predictions on how they saw blockchain in healthcare evolving over time, Yetter commented that “In 12 to 24 months, you will see a lot of fast-moving activity, and with the changing nature of conversations and the work being done now, there is a clear signal that we are at a bit of an inflection point.”


“But I think we will accelerate the meaningful work in this space and bring the technology in. Going back to the idea of acceptance and use of emerging technologies in other sectors first, we are seeing blockchain in place in financial institutions in meaningful ways.”


“So in the next year or two, I think we will see the same thing in healthcare, whether it’s aspects around provider data, or getting into exposing things to the patient or member, so they have greater control. We’ll see a lot of energy and investment in that space.”


Ghosh concluded the discussion by adding that “beyond the pilots that you see today, the voice of the customer will be increasingly automated with enterprise blockchain.”


“Within healthcare, the issue is, how do you provide greater autonomy, depending on who has the data and where? It’s not one or two companies that are trying to do something; it’s five or 10 that want to get together before someone else beats them to it.”



Source : https://cryptodisrupt.com/evolution-of-blockchain-in-healthcare-a-view-from-inside-the-industry/

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