Blockchain is best known by its association with bitcoin and other digital currencies. There are actually many more uses for blockchain, as it has unique attributes that make it different than a standard database. Simply put, blockchain is a ledger of transactions that cannot be altered or changed. A blockchain ledger is shared by all the entities who use it rather than one central owner.
Healthcare organizations are beginning to formulate use cases for blockchain, leveraging its distinct, valuable attributes. Blockchain has the potential to address some of the healthcare industry’s biggest challenges, like interoperability, fraud, and verification of data. Let’s look at how this technology is evolving.
Revenue Cycle Management & Fraud Prevention
Healthcare organizations can reap financial advantages from having the shared, trusted data set blockchain delivers. Payers and providers could both benefit from the use of blockchain as a means to understand the revenue cycle end to end. The potential to reduce fraud from erroneous claims is significant. Even more impactful would be creating a more stable and predictable revenue cycle with its impenetrable yet ubiquitous ledger.
For example, providers can use healthcare blockchain platforms to validate identities and record transactions. Hospitals and medical billing group spend an inordinate amount of resources to collect, verify and update a patient’s insurance card at each and every visit. Further down the revenue cycle process, these groups invest a lot of money trying to comply with often opaque and hard to understand payer contract terms.
Could blockchain be a better solution for accessing which patient has insurance along with the services covered by that plan? Could blockchain codify the complex rules and logic spelled out in payer-provider contracts, allowing both parties to more efficiently and consistently follow the agreed-upon rules without denials, reworks, and audits?
Blockchain-based records then cannot be tampered with, which is what makes the technology an excellent tool for financial applications. Capital One, with blockchain company Gem, is already implementing this value to create smoother transactions between payers and providers, resulting in an easier way to facilitate the complex processes in place to administer healthcare benefits and process claims and payments.
Change Healthcare is another player in applying blockchain to healthcare revenue cycle management. The goal of their blockchain-enabled service is to improve claims processing and enable secure payment transactions, thereby boosting the cycle’s efficiency.
When all this data is stored in the blockchain, security and transparency are enhanced and fraud is less likely to slip through. Payers can easily access both patient records and that patient’s approved provider with blockchain, making it much easier to locate possible fraudulent claims. This is a way to be proactive with fraud, instead of reactive, something the industry has struggled with considerably.
Health Information Exchange
Big data challenges plague the healthcare industry. As a whole, healthcare is known as an industry with major inefficiencies when it comes to collecting, verifying and sharing important data related to the delivery and payment of healthcare services. When providers don’t have access to data, it makes care collaboration that much harder, if not impossible. Working in a data silo leads to physicians doubling up on data entry, often repeating labs or imaging studies or worse missing insights on previously diagnosed conditions. Digital data has the potential to eliminate these burdens and risks. This challenge is ideal for healthcare blockchain solutions.
When you look at healthcare data, it’s often uncoordinated and unconnected, creating a lot of noise and chaos. This has led to interoperability challenges across the globe. For this use case, healthcare blockchain company Grapevine World is making strides, improving interoperability and the exchange of vital data. Grapevine World is taking this challenge on with blockchain as the solution. They have created an innovative ecosystem for the exchange of medical data in a secure and standardized way, breaking down the barriers to data access.
All the information exchange conducted by Grapevine World follows IHE standards and is powered by Ethereum blockchain. They have merged IHE and blockchain to achieve a global health data exchange.
Medical Device & Medication Tracking
Both medications and medical devices can be tracked and traced with blockchain, forming another formidable healthcare use case. Medication can be tracked from the manufacturer, to distributors, to pharmacies, and finally to the patient – enabling end-to-end transparency in the lifecycle of the pharmaceutical. This tracking helps verify the authenticity and safety of the drug to reduce medicine counterfeiting, track adverse events and allow supply chains to run more efficiently, and decrease costs.
The use case for devices is similar. These devices, including implants to equipment, could be tracked throughout the supply chain as well as throughout the product’s life cycle. This is beneficial because it could result in faster responses to recalls, which is vital to patient safety. The required maintenance for certain types of medical devices could also be monitored, which could boost the device’s quality and perhaps even its longer-term efficacy.
Clinical Trials & Research
Likely the most logical healthcare blockchain use case, blockchain can be used in clinical trials and research to hold the large amounts of data that are collected and analyzed. The data’s integrity is vastly improved because the ledger cannot be altered.
Further, in current research processes, a lot of money is spent verifying source data. In fact, a study published by the Department of Health and Human Services found that one-third of a Phase 3 trial budget is lost to this need. That’s a lot of money spent on data management, which means it’s ripe for disruption. Enter the blockchain.
By using blockchain’s cryptographic hashing systems that verify and timestamp data, data verification costs could be minimized considerably. The post-study verification process could be completely eliminated, with the money spent here going back toward actually researching diseases to find cures.
Leading the way to make this use case a reality is healthcare blockchain company Innoplexus. They are using blockchain and AI to eradicate wasteful spending in drug discovery trials. Their platform could be a real catalyst for innovation and could help smaller research companies share data, which could lead to many possibilities for improving patient care.
The opportunities to use blockchain in healthcare are plentiful, and it’s up on our list as one of the Top Healthcare Technology Trends to Watch in 2019. There are benefits for all stakeholders — providers, payers, and patients — making it vital to consider blockchain as an emerging solution for data management challenges. Like any other trend in healthcare, blockchain will continue to evolve and adapt with the industry.
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About the Author
Carevoyance contributor Beth Osborne is a professional writer and content marketer with multiple years of experience in healthcare IT marketing. Learn more about her by visiting her website.