Blockchain is a shared, distributed digital ledger on which transactions are chronologically recorded in a cooperative and tamper-free manner. One of the best and simplest explanations compares it to a spreadsheet that gets duplicated multiple times across a network of computers designed to regularly update the spreadsheet. The technology is most useful when loosely coupled or independent organizations want to confidently share and audit information and automate mutually beneficial processes.
The potential is staggering given the need to improve and streamline how healthcare data is managed and to ensure security, in addition to the opportunity the technology presents for collaboration across traditional industry and competitive boundaries. We have identified many potential uses for blockchain, including longitudinal health records, tracking assets, managing and exchanging data, and automating processes—all with the goal of improving member, provider, and payer experiences and removing cost from the healthcare system.
The first project, which was announced in April 2018, seeks to determine if applying blockchain technology could help ensure the most current information about healthcare providers is available in the provider directories maintained by health insurers.
State and federal laws, regulations and guidance require health plans to regularly update provider directories, such as monthly with some requirements being even tighter. Additionally, many of those same laws require insurers to contact every provider in their directories, sometimes as often as every three months, and make updates to those directories much faster than has been done in the past. The present model encourages potentially duplicative outreach and maintenance costs while creating silos of data. This pilot will examine how sharing data across health care organizations on blockchain technology can improve data accuracy, streamline administration, reduce costs and improve access to care.
In forming this alliance, the group recognizes that to build an effective solution, Synaptic and the blockchain network will need more participants from the healthcare industry.
We believe this is the first blockchain initiative in healthcare to involve several national and international providers and payers, so the scale may be unprecedented. To keep the pilot manageable in scope, we will focus on one major geographic market and on a common set of providers across the Alliance members. Consumers in that market may see improved quality in the provider directories, and providers in that market may see fewer calls and emails from the payers to verify the provider’s demographics. We will be tracking results from data quality and potential cost-savings standpoints.
We are publishing white papers and presenting at conferences throughout 2018. The current pilot project has been running over the summer. We hope to have results to report in the fall. Based on those results, we will determine whether and how to put the project into actual production among the Alliance members.
As for other uses for blockchain in healthcare, we have identified several and will consider them for future exploration. That list includes: