News Feature | September 2, 2016

Blockchain's Value For Transforming Healthcare: Placing The Consumer At The Center

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Older Patients Benefit From New Healthcare Technology

Human CEO Bruce Broussard reflects on how Blockchain can change healthcare technology.

Blockchain technology could be the next big thing to transform healthcare, according to Humana CEO Bruce Broussard. In a LinkedIn post, he wrote the technology is “positioned to be the next dramatic innovation in healthcare, with a potential impact rivaling any other advances, and lessons can be learned from the embracement of Blockchain by the financial services industry.”

Blockchain technology is what makes Bitcoin work, and it facilitates secure, trackable transactions between parties with no need for an intermediary.

As CIO explained, “a Blockchain is the structure of data that represents a financial ledger entry, or a record of a transaction. Each transaction is digitally signed to ensure its authenticity and that no one tampers with it, so the ledger itself and the existing transaction within it are assumed to be of high integrity.” The digital entries are then distributed among a deployment or infrastructure, providing a consensus about the state of a transaction at any given moment.

Citing research that found Blockchain could save banks as much as $20 billion per year by 2022 by cutting infrastructure costs, Broussard says, “For healthcare, there is a similar opportunity at hand, reducing cost while improving the consumer experience.”

Blockchain could help simplify the complex web of healthcare claims validation and processing, Broussard explains, which currently requires a whole series of validations and multiple third parties acting on behalf of other entities. But if we utilized Blockchain in these healthcare transactions, we could eliminate most of the middle men, for a huge reduction in costs.

In fact, recognizing the potential of Blockchain for healthcare interoperability, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has announced a Blockchain challenge that is “soliciting white papers on the technology and its potential use in health IT ‘to address privacy, security, and scalability challenges of managing electronic health records and resources.’”

Broussard concludes, “Blockchain creates a permanent transaction history — based on contractual agreements — that could enable pre-approved entities (hospitals, health plans, physician groups, and pharma companies) to create transparent contracts (legal agreements) for the consumer.” This is important, because “Blockchain creates a connectivity mechanism, so everyone can drop their contribution into it, and it manages the entire workflow. Most importantly, Blockchain streamlines the process and enables automation that will help reduce the costs associated with claims reimbursement, leading to accurate and timely reimbursement.”

And it would allow for interoperability on a whole new level for healthcare, with EHRs connecting directly to Blockchain, integrating information into the EHR from hospitals, providers, and specialists alike. It would allow healthcare providers to access the right data at the right time on a need-to-know medical basis.

While Broussard acknowledges the integration of Blockchain into healthcare still has a long way to go, the industry has already started to embrace its transformational power. He says, “Blockchain is another step forward in simplifying a health system so we can help usher in a new level of care. The promise of Blockchain is about putting the consumer at the center of healthcare, instead of the other way around.”