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Health insurers will test blockchain for data handling

Aims to make health records more accurate and reliable

dataThere’s almost no limit to the applications being suggested for blockchain, the distributed ledger system underpinning cryptocurrencies, and now US health insurance companies are putting the technology through its paces.

The healthcare payers - Humana, UnitedHealthcare and Optum - have joined forces with lab testing firm Quest Diagnostics and cost-management specialist MultiPlan to pilot the use of blockchain to “improve data quality and lower administrative costs”.

The overall aim is to make healthcare provider demographic data such as health records more accurate and reliable - and help drive out errors that the partners estimate can cost as much as $2.1bn per year to reconcile.

At the moment, each insurer has their own provider data but using blockchain they intend to develop a sharing system that will make sure everything is up to date - and visible to all parties. The net benefit should be improved data accuracy, streamlined administration and improved access to care, they suggest.

“The pilot will also address the high cost of health care 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,” say the partner organisations.

Blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. The chain is managed by a decentralised peer-to-peer network - in other words there is no central authority - and the encrypted data is shared and validated equally by all the nodes in the network. In other words, any change to the chain - which is recorded in real time - is clearly visible to all parties with access to it.

The pharma industry is also looking into blockchain’s potential as a means of securing the transaction data generated by medicines traceability schemes - powered by the addition of unique identifiers on drug packs - which are due to come into effect in the US and EU in 2019. There are also pilots looking at using the technology to organise and share data clinical trials data.

A Deloitte report on the application of blockchain to healthcare published in 2016 predicted that the technology could “provide a new model for health information exchanges (HIE) by making electronic medical records more efficient, disintermediated, and secure”.

Article by
Phil Taylor

4th April 2018

From: Research

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