An alliance made up of seven major US healthcare companies will be exploring the potential of blockchain in improving data quality, reports Modern Healthcare.

The alliance is made up 22 million members across the 7-member organization. Humana, Multiplan, UnitedHealth Group’s Optum, UnitedHealthcare and Quest Diagnostic, recently joined Ascension, regarded as the largest not-for-profit health system in the US, and CVS Health-Aetna. The primary objective is to research ways in which blockchain can be used to improve data quality and lower administrative cost.

The alliance will leverage blockchain’s distributed consensus to establish credibility and the immutability to secure the integrity of the data being generated and stored. The ultimate objective is to “make provider directory more accurate”, reports the news portal.

Another benefit would be that changes are made to all copies of the ledger in real time, stated Quest Diagnostics chief information officer Lidia Fonseca; this characteristic of blockchain will cut down operational costs.

According to the data reviewed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on the accuracy of 108 providers, more than half of provider directory locations listed in 64 Medicare Advantage organizations’ online directory were reported to have had at least one type of error. The summary of the errors from the report included the provider not being at the location listed, incorrect phone numbers or the provider was not accepting new patients when the directory indicated they were.

The face value of such problems is an expenditure of about USD 2.1 billion to ensure information is accurate; a heavy burden on insurers who usually maintain their own directories of providers along with others. The consequence of failing to maintain the database could attract sanctions from the (CMS).

Ascension’s chief information officer, Gerry Lewis said the blockchain could ease the burden of providers and also save cost. While he remains optimistic of the blockchain approach, he, however, recognizes that it’s no easy feat noting that they are at “step one of probably a 300-step journey”.

The blockchain could indeed transform healthcare, from secure storage of patient data to guided research built upon reliable and untampered data sources. The applications seem to be broad and there are numerous decentralized blockchain startups exploring the trend.

 

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