Intermountain Reduces Waste With Blockchain, Saves $90M

If you’re wondering whether blockchain technologies are worth deploying in healthcare, you’ll probably find the following to be worth a look. According to a Forbes piece, Intermountain Healthcare has been using a mix of blockchain-based technology and AI to find waste within its 22 hospitals, and has generated a boatload of savings as a result.

Intermountain built its new solution with two vendors, BurstIQ and Empiric Health. Empiric, for its part, uses machine learning, artificial intelligence and natural language processing to find variations in patient care. Burst IQ, meanwhile, uses blockchain-based tech to support fine-grained ownership of data and protect privacy while making the data available to a large number of stakeholders, including patients, health systems, insurers, and medical researchers.

Combining Empiric’s analytics and BurstIQ’s blockchain-based capabilities, Intermountain created an approach that saved it more than $90 million in surgical costs over a two-year period.

The big question at this point is what HIT leaders with the health system will do for an encore. While they haven’t said what else they plan to do with these technologies, it’s likely they’ll pursue one or more of the projects the American Hospital Association has cited as worthwhile, including:

* Leveraging longitudinal health records to improve care delivery
* Developing a master patient index for mismatched data sets or duplicate records
* Creating data interoperability in HIEs
* Tracing the process of transferring ownership of materials across the supply chain

Also, they may very well engage in another of the marquee uses of blockchain in healthcare is likely to involve protecting the security and integrity of patient health records. If healthcare organizations use blockchain to decentralize EHR data storage across multiple locations, all attackers can get is one or two blocks of data at any given point.

Along the way, hospital leaders are also likely to take some of their cues from blockchain initiatives underway within payer organizations. For example, early this year, a group including Aetna, Anthem and Health Care Service Corporation announced plans to build a blockchain-based ecosystem making it easier for healthcare companies to build, share and apply shared solutions.

These kinds of cooperative development efforts have been underway for quite some time within the insurance industry. Going forward, it’s likely health systems will come together to realize some of the benefits Intermountain already has. We’re still at the early stages of blockchain development, but it’s beginning to deliver on some of its promise, and with results like these, it’s likely health IT leaders will take it more seriously in coming years.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.