Pilot Program Brings Blockchain Technology to Healthcare Industry

By now, most of us have at least heard of blockchain technology, which was created (thanks to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies) in order to safely and securely exchange financial information.  However, many different industries are now attempting to put blockchain technology to appropriate uses in different capacities.  Two of the United States’ largest health insurers, UnitedHealth and Humana, have agreed to partner up for a pilot project with Quest Diagnostics and Multiplan to examine the potential of sharing healthcare data using blockchain technology.

Announced the first week of April, 2018, officials for the companies involved with the project have stated hopes that the project will improve data accuracy, streamline administration and expand access to healthcare in an industry estimated to spend more than $2 billion annually to maintain provider data.  The first goal of the pilot program is to examine whether blockchain technology can be used to keep health plan directories of network providers, including doctors and hospitals, up to date.

UnitedHealth and Humana see potentially huge cost savings down the line from investing in the blockchain technology infrastructure.  The companies also have high hopes for the cost and time efficiencies that the technology may be capable of creating in claims processing and billing.  If all goes according to plan with the pilot program, changes made to data by any of the companies involved would be available almost instantaneously to the other companies.

Although the pilot program is limited to a few specific goals at this early stage in its development, if it becomes clear that blockchain technology has other practical uses to the companies, and ultimately to the healthcare industry as a whole, more partnerships like this are likely to become much more common place.  As this pilot program progresses and others like it take shape, it will be interesting to see what potential issues arise along with them – namely with data liability, HIPAA, HITECH, and other regulations dealing with data transmission and access.  As with any new program, policy, regulation or law, healthcare businesses interested in this technology should consult an attorney experienced in the areas of healthcare, data liability and compliance.