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Blockchain can simplify physicians’ lives

Medical Economics JournalJuly 10, 2018 edition
Volume 95
Issue 13

Digital ledger holds the potential to improve practice processes, but don’t get blinded by hype.

No one expects physicians to become blockchain experts. Instead, blockchain could be viewed in a similar manner to one’s internet connection: Most users don’t have a deep understanding of exactly how it works, yet they can benefit from the tech. In the same way, blockchain works in the background to make complex processes more efficient.

Claims processing
Due to a reliance on manual steps and third parties such as clearinghouses, claims processing can require months to complete. Given blockchain’s ability to reconcile transactions in near real-time, incorporation of the technology into billing systems could lead to much prompter payment for physician practices.

Sharing patient records
Exchange of patient data is notoriously hampered by interoperability problems between separate information systems. It has been virtually impossible to create a system in which multiple providers can view and share patient data while still maintaining an authoritative and up-to-date record. Blockchain allows the participants to maintain their own systems yet share the patient records in a permissioned manner while tracking this process in an end-to-end manner. So, this provides for proof of work as well as a time-stamped audit of the transactions.

This process is often performed through an inefficient, time-consuming series of paper, phone, and unencrypted email-based communications that result in lost time for staff and excessive costs for practices. However, automating the process through blockchain enables easy data sharing among payers, providers, and care team members, removing the need for many manual tasks. Blockchain-enabled smart contracts codify business rules associated with referrals, such as whether certain payers or practices require specific forms to execute referrals, which streamlines communication among participants.

It’s important to note that blockchain is not the solution to every healthcare problem under the sun. Blockchain works best for solving problems that involve sharing data among multiple, disparate entities-a scenario quickly becoming the norm under value-based care models, which focus on care coordination and outcomes throughout.

Rahul Sharma is chief executive officer of HSBlox, a team of blockchain healthcare, financial technology, and digital supply chain management professionals.

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