The pieces are falling in place for broad adoption of blockchain in healthcare – Modern Healthcare

While many people associate blockchain technology with the financial industry, I firmly believe that 2022 will be a pivotal year in driving healthcare industry awareness and adoption. Blockchain is being used by life sciences and healthcare supply chain and we’ve seen some experimentation, but we have yet to see widespread adoption by healthcare providers and payers. In this coming year, we’ll see that we now have key pieces in place that can accelerate the widespread adoption of blockchain by more healthcare organizations–leading to a more interoperable system nationwide.
One of those key pieces for greater blockchain adoption is increased pressure from the federal government and the CURES Act. Consider how HIPAA took more than a decade to come to fruition. Until it actually became the law, the industry usage of X12 as an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) formatting standard never really took off. I think the CURES Act’s interoperability requirements will have a similar trajectory for adoption. Blockchain makes nationwide interoperability possible by creating a verifiable trust layer, providing permissioned access to data (eliminating the need to exchange data), and increasing security through certified verification of all participants. Organizations are beginning to leverage the power of blockchain to create joint processes on a nationwide network that is blockchain enabled and this will accelerate the adoption of blockchain.
The ongoing pandemic also serves as a driver; it has clearly illustrated the impact of the lack of interoperability between systems nationwide. Had there been a national healthcare technology network at the start of the pandemic, it would have improved what we could have accomplished by more efficiently sharing clinical information, tracking positivity rates, and distributing PPE and vaccines.
Federation of data
An additional driver for blockchain adoption is the development of a nationwide, blockchain-enabled healthcare technology network. I’ve been on both the payer and the provider side of the interoperability equation. Payers and providers have their own unique perspective on the challenges of interoperability, but share the strong desire to solve the problem. Both sides are trying to combat building and maintaining point-to-point interchanges, which is challenging and resource intensive for both parties, and even when those interchanges are built they rarely go outside of their own independent network. Gathering information means going out and obtaining every piece of data available and storing it into a central data warehouse, where you focus a lot of expensive resources trying to appropriately attribute and manage that data. Health information exchanges (HIEs) have made progress in some states and regions over the past decade, but there remains inconsistent implementations across the country.
A blockchain-enabled network changes that complex picture, enabling entities across the ecosystem to share the broadest set of data with a high level of security and consent. The federation of data allows a payer, provider and patient to access data no matter where it exists –with appropriate permissions. A provider can send out a query to all participants (providers, payers, HIEs, HINs, etc.) on the national health network where each patient has a unique identifier with which to make it attributable. If the data queried exists and the right security and consent levels are in place, the data flows directly to the requested entity—without the need for a point-to-point connection.
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Blockchain application gets real
Clinical credentialing is critical in the healthcare industry and represents a lot of administrative cost. As it stands now, payers have to credential and recredential every single provider, each one with unique national and/or state requirements, as well as requirements tagged by line of business. From the provider side, the process is equally as complex. Providers must get credentialed for every hospital, network or provider group in which they want to work. After credentialing has been completed by one entity, the entire process typically has to be redone in full with each additional entity. With blockchain, payers and providers have access to trusted, immutable data that they can rely on. Think of how we could streamline hiring and onboarding clinical staff. We could have an electronic, secure eWallet-type of credential for each provider, making it easier for them to be leveraged anywhere throughout the healthcare ecosystem immediately.
Now is the time
I have the privilege to be a part of a consortium of forward-thinking organizations focused on delivering on the promise of interoperability. Sentara Healthcare, Cleveland Clinic, Avaneer Health, Anthem, CVS Aetna, Health Care Services Corp., IBM and PNC Financial Services have come together to build an inclusive and secure network based on blockchain, FHIR and other technologies. Together, we’re changing the paradigm of healthcare data flows.
I truly believe 2022 is the year we finally hit the critical mass needed to initiate the national health interchange and to commercialize it for broader adoption. With a community of these large, nationwide payers as well as providers who are focused on collaboration, we’re building a foundation for participation across the healthcare ecosystem. We’ll be able to leverage solutions for specific use cases that will drive even greater innovation and more ways to deliver value for payers, providers, patients, and the marketplace in general.
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