Much of the discussion around blockchain (that I’ve seen, at least) focuses on blockchain’s potential as a platform for secure sharing of clinical data. For example, some HIT experts see blockchain as a near-ideal scalable platform for protecting the privacy of EHR-based patient data.
That being said, blockchain offers an even more logical platform for financial transactions, given its origins as the foundation for bitcoin transactions and its track record of supporting those transactions efficiently.
Apparently, that hasn’t been lost on the team at Change Healthcare. The Nashville-based health IT company is planning to launch what it says is the first blockchain solution for enterprise-scale use in healthcare. According to a release announcing the launch, the new technology platform should be online by the end of this year.
Change Healthcare already processes 12 billion transactions a year, worth more than $2 trillion in claims annually. Not surprisingly, the new platform will extend its new blockchain platform to its existing payer and provider partners. Here’s an infographic explaining how Change expects processes will shift when it deploys blockchain:
To build out blockchain for use in RCM, Change is working with customers, as well as organizations like The Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger project.
Hyperledger encompasses a range of tools set to offer new, more-standardized approaches to deploying blockchain, including Hyperledger Cello, which will offer access to on-demand “as-a-service” blockchain technology and Hyperledger Composer, a tool for building blockchain business networks and boosting the development and deployment of smart contracts.
It’s hard to tell how much impact Change’s blockchain deployment will have. Certainly, there are countless ways in which RCM can be improved, given the extent to which dollars still leak out of the system. Also, given its existing RCM network, Change has as good a chance as anyone of building out blockchain-based RCM.
Still, I’m wondering whether the new service will prove to be a long-term product deployment or an experiment (though Change would doubtless argue for the former). Not only that, given its relatively immature status and the lack of broadly-accepted standards, is it really safe for providers to rely on blockchain for something as mission-critical as cash flow?
Of course, when it comes to new technologies, somebody has to be first, and I’m certainly not suggesting that Change doesn’t know what it’s doing. I’d just like more evidence that blockchain is ready for prime time.