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Change Healthcare and the Fight for Blockchain Solutions

At the HLTH — The Future of Healthcare conference earlier this month in Las Vegas, banners for Change Healthcare, a firm on the cutting edge of the healthcare system’s use of distributed ledgers, were on prominent display throughout the event center.

Speaking at this event, Change’s president and CEO Neil de Crescenzo announced the company’s new partnership with Adobe and Microsoft, one that’s expected to usher in a new wave of digital healthcare advancement.

But arguably the biggest news on the Change Healthcare front this year is the company’s launch of a groundbreaking, enterprise-scale blockchain network. This breakthrough use case promises to allow health provider organizations, physician practices and payers to longitudinally track claims submissions and remittances in real time.

Through the infrastructure, known as the “Intelligent Healthcare Network,” Change hopes to set a high bar for care delivery and reimbursement across the healthcare continuum.  At present, the system is processing 50 million health insurance transactions per day through Hyperledger Fabric 1.0 — the open-source blockchain framework hosted by The Linux Foundation.

Change is putting blockchain technology to work in the facilitation of data across the entire healthcare continuum — from check-in for a preoperative visit to direct care and then to billing and payment. This fresh approach to revenue cycle management, leading to greater transparency and efficiency in healthcare, underscores blockchain technology’s value proposition and utility.

Building the Next “Block”

Emily Vaughn joined Change Healthcare in December of last year as its director of blockchain product development. As the former head of marketing and business development at Gem, Vaughn oversaw the company’s evolution from a Bitcoin API service to an enterprise blockchain service provider.

Distributed.com had a chance to talk briefly with Vaughn at the HLTH conference.

“The real driving interest was this huge opportunity for someone to fill an important gap in the healthcare blockchain conversation,” Vaughn said, regarding her decision to join the Change team. “There are a lot of startups and great ideas. And the investment potential is there. But what is lacking is an enterprise leader that’s going to invest in the community, the ecosystem and in the development of all these company business models. I’ve always thought that Change Healthcare was the perfect company for that.”

Vaughn believes that there is a technical layer of capability and maturity that still needs to be achieved in blockchain solutions for healthcare, in order for the industry to really step into the future and advance.

“Healthcare has a lot of modernization to go through, and blockchain [technology] also has a lot of maturity that needs to be developed from a healthcare standpoint because our networks are going to operate a little differently than a financial network would,” she said. “We have this technical development that needs to continue. And we also have a business layer that needs to be developed.”

Vaughn added that over the last few years the conversation around blockchain technology has always been about its technical capabilities. But she sees emerging trends that should help the industry take the next steps.

“I think we will see more collaborations on the network level as well as more collaboration around cloud infrastructure and blockchain networks,” Vaughn said. “Also, we’re going to see increased collaboration around business use cases that run on top of that network. Things like the revenue cycle and alternative insurance products. In this latter case, people will use smart contracts to pool the purchasing power of individuals so that they can then use those contracts to negotiate rates.”

Overall, the conversations at HLTH and beyond leave Vaughn optimistic that healthcare will soon find blockchain solutions for some of its most pressing problems.

“I think people realize that the old methods are not necessarily worth protecting anymore, that we have technology that can solve problems that we never thought we could solve,” she said.

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