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by Michael Scott, Aug 16, 2017

Changing the Rx for Healthcare's Woes


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Healthcare in the U.S. has reached a pivotal point. While battles over health reform rage throughout Congress, Americans continue to be faced with soaring costs, quality of care deficiencies and barriers to medical service access.  

All this comes amid reports that out of control administrative costs are bottlenecking the industry. Inefficient healthcare systems are a major contributor to these woes. Take for example a routine medical checkup with a new healthcare provider. For starters, patients typically have to complete a mountain of paperwork prior to being seen. Then there is the customary “wallet biopsy” to ensure that proper insurance requirements are in place. Upon completing this process, patients frequently have to endure lengthy waits before being seen by the provider.

In recent years, blockchain technology — an open, distributed ledger that facilitates secure transactions between multiple parties, such as payers and providers — has emerged as a solution to these inefficiencies. It can be especially helpful in streamlining the submission of claims, medical records and payment remittances.

Blockchain technology may also provide a more seamless way of securely sending Health Insurance Portablity and Accountability Act (HIPAA)- compliant patient information from one provider to another. This secure method of transacting data would expedite processing while lowering medical costs and vastly reducing the possibility of human mistakes and fraud.

Fueling Change

A spin-off of pharmaceutical giant McKesson Corporation, Change Healthcare believes the time is ripe for blockchain technology to improve healthcare systems. This value-based company has joined industry stalwarts IBM and Kaiser Permanente in examining digital ledger platforms for the health industry.

As one of the largest independent healthcare technology companies in the United States, Change Healthcare has a track record of enabling better patient care, choice and outcomes throughout the continuum of care. The company is rapidly proving they can address the varied needs of multiple healthcare stakeholders, including commercial and governmental payers, laboratories, consumers, employers, hospitals, physicians and other providers. The company is working in collaboration with consumers and industry partners to help improve workflow inefficiencies, reduce costs and boost cash flow.

In a move expected to further accelerate progress in these areas, the Hashed Health consortium, a healthcare innovation hub for collaborative networks, recently announced that Change Healthcare has joined the group, and will be aiding the consortium in supporting blockchain innovation in the healthcare realm. This development underscores industry efforts taking place around workforce improvements, cost reductions and improvements in patient care.

Change Healthcare has also joined the Linux Foundation's blockchain-focused Hyperledger initiative, making it the first healthcare organization to join the cross-industry collaborative at the premier level. Here, Change Healthcare will join members like Accenture, IBM, Intel and SAP. General members include Kaiser Permanente, NTT DATA and VMware, among others. All members of the Hyperledger initiative share a common aim of advancing blockchain technology across all sectors. Aaron Symanski, CTO of Change Healthcare, is slated to join Hyperledger's governing board.

"Blockchain is a promising and exciting new technology for secure online transactions. But it's crucial that healthcare leaders step up to champion innovation to help take blockchain from its early implementations to tomorrow's healthcare IT solutions,” said Symanski, addressing Change Healthcare’s efforts to get the healthcare ecosystem onto the blockchain.

When asked about how Change Healthcare anticipates using the blockchain, Symanski stated, “We believe that blockchain technology can facilitate portability and access through its ability to connect all the participants, both financial and medical, in a patient’s healthcare experience. Healthcare reimbursement is ground zero for blockchain technology in healthcare, and Change Healthcare is uniquely positioned on the forefront of payments and payment model design.”

Characteristics of a Unique System

Symanski went on to suggest why partnering with Hashed Health was appropriate, “While Change Healthcare also has a significant footprint in the financial side of U.S. healthcare, we find that this industry has its own unique characteristics. Hashed Health is completely focused on those unique characteristics and brings other like-minded organizations around its central table. This holds great promise for fostering greater efficiencies as we pursue a better future for the healthcare industry.”

President and CEO of Change Healthcare, Neil de Crescenzo, will open as the keynote speaker of the 2017 Distributed: Health conference on Monday, September 25 in Nashville, Tennessee.

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