Five prominent healthcare organizations—Humana, MultiPlan, Quest Diagnostics, and UnitedHealth Group’s Optum and UnitedHealthcare—have announced that they are launching a blockchain-based pilot program with the aim to improve healthcare data quality and reduce administrative costs.
In a press release, officials said that the companies will explore how the technology could help ensure that the most current healthcare provider information is available in health plan provider directories. “Providing consumers looking for care with accurate information when they need it is essential to a high-functioning overall healthcare system.”
Specifically, the pilot will examine how sharing data across healthcare organizations on blockchain technology can improve data accuracy, improve access to care, and streamline administration costs associated with changes to provider demographic data—"a critical, complex and difficult issue facing organizations across the healthcare system,” according to the announcement.
The press release noted that today, managed care organizations, health systems, physicians, diagnostic information service providers and other healthcare stakeholders typically maintain separate copies of healthcare provider data, which can result in time-intensive and expensive reconciliation processes when differences arise. Industry estimates indicate that $2.1 billion is spent annually across the healthcare system chasing and maintaining provider data.
As such, officials have noted that the pilot will also address the high cost of healthcare provider data management, testing the premise that administrative costs and data quality can be improved by sharing provider data inputs and changes made by different parties across a blockchain, potentially reducing operational costs while improving data quality.
One of the participating organizations, MultiPlan, said in a statement that it is “excited to participate in this alliance and strengthen our relationships with the other alliance members.” The organization’s vice president of operations, David Murtagh, noted, “Throughout healthcare, there are so many reasons to share data. With increasing state and federal requirements relating to provider data maintenance and quality, tackling the high cost and redundancy in this space is a logical starting point. Maintaining over 1 million providers in our networks, MultiPlan has developed broad perspectives on the process and nuanced insight into the various provider types, while continuing to invest in systems and processes to support high quality data. We’re looking forward to exploring how blockchain technology can make the process more efficient while reducing costs, ideally to build investments that can enhance the provider and patient experiences.”
Recent momentum around blockchain in healthcare spurred Healthcare Informatics’ editors to name it as one of our Top Tech Trends for healthcare IT in 2017, despite applications of the technology still being at a nascent level, industry-wide. Blockchain technology is most commonly associated with digital currency, and is a data structure that can be time-stamped and signed using a private key to prevent tampering. Experts are bullish on blockchain’s ability to assist in age-old healthcare problems such as interoperability and security.