Aetna, Ascension Join Blockchain Project Aimed at Addressing Provider Data Issues

Dec. 3, 2018
Following up on a healthcare blockchain project established earlier this year, Aetna and Ascension are now joining the initiative.

Following up on a healthcare blockchain project established earlier this year, Aetna and Ascension are now joining the initiative, which has the core aim of applying blockchain technology to improve healthcare data quality and reduce administrative costs.

In April, five prominent healthcare stakeholders—Humana, MultiPlan, Quest Diagnostics, and UnitedHealth Group’s Optum and UnitedHealthcare—announced their intention to explore how blockchain technology could help ensure that the most current healthcare provider information is available in health plan provider directories. “Providing consumers looking for care with accurate information when they need it is essential to a high-functioning overall healthcare system,” officials said at the time.

Specifically, the initiative, the Synaptic Health Alliance, will examine how sharing data across healthcare organizations on blockchain technology can improve data accuracy, improve access to care, and streamline administration costs associated with changes to provider demographic data—"a critical, complex and difficult issue facing organizations across the healthcare system,” according to that April announcement.

Aetna, which serves more than 22 million medical benefits members, will be sharing and contributing to innovative solutions in collaboration with the Synaptic Health Alliance, according to officials.

Meanwhile, Ascension, one of the largest health systems in the U.S., and the world’s largest Catholic health system, “brings a care provider-centric viewpoint to the Synaptic Health Alliance on the complexities of contributing to accurate care provider directories,” officials noted.

The project’s leaders attest that “maintaining up-to-date health plan provider directories is a critical, complex and challenging issue facing organizations across the healthcare system.” They add that federal and state laws require that health plans maintain directories containing basic information about physicians and other health care providers. Industry estimates indicate that $2.1 billion is spent annually across the healthcare system acquiring and maintaining provider data.

As such, the pilot is exploring how blockchain technology can be used to actively share data with the aim of showing potential administrative cost savings for health plans and care providers while demonstrably improving care provider demographic data quality and consumers’ healthcare experience.

This past summer, in a Healthcare Informatics interview with two blockchain leaders from KPMG, Michael B. Yetter, director, healthcare management consulting noted, on the blockchain pilot project, “I would classify that as more meaningful because they are bringing multiple parties together to solve for a specific use case and problem,” adding, “and seeing multiple big players involved is encouraging.”

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