Five healthcare organizations — Humana, UnitedHealthcare, Optum, Quest Diagnostics and MultiPlan — have unveiled a blockchain-based effort that aims to tackle provider data challenges.
Currently, healthcare organizations usually keep separate copies of provider directories at hand. This makes it difficult to give patients the right information about their physician when they need it, and even more taxing to double-check data when differences between the directories emerge.
Thus, the five members of the project will explore how blockchain technology can be used to share provider data. Additionally, the pilot program plans to test whether making use of blockchain for provider information purposes can improve administrative costs and data quality.
Mike Jacobs, a senior distinguished engineer at Optum, said the alliance will initially focus the program on one geographic area and a common set of providers across the companies.
“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,” Jacobs said via email.
The pilot will start this summer, with the organizations hoping for results by the fall. Then, based on said results, the companies will decide how to best put the program into place, Jacobs said.
In a statement, Lidia Fonseca, senior vice president and CIO of Quest Diagnostics, added: “[Quest is] connected to more than 650 EHR platforms and a majority of health systems and physicians in the U.S., so we bring a unique level of insight into how to connect people and organizations across healthcare. We look forward to sharing these insights with our alliance collaborators as we jointly explore blockchain’s potential to improve healthcare data exchange.”
Arun Ghosh, KPMG principal, weighed in on the announcement, noting the pilot hopes to bring transparency and the automation of several processes.
“[W]ith this partnership (and pilot), establishing ‘upstream’ provenance of patient records and its outbounds workflow into clinical systems and ultimately eligibility is a fresh attempt at revising how both encounters and EHRs will be accessed, managed and disseminated across the participants of this private blockchain,” he said via email.
The five organizations join the ranks of healthcare companies already utilizing blockchain: Hashed Health, Luna DNA and Health Wizz, to name a few. These startups have been leveraging the technology for a variety of purposes, from giving consumers bitcoins for their genetic data to allowing individuals to aggregate and share their personal health information.