A view from the Center

Deloitte's Life Sciences & Health Care Blog

Blockchain: Coming soon to a health care use case near you

One of the things I love most about my job is working with colleagues from other industries. I nearly always learn something. And, I’m often able to apply these lessons to my work with our health plan clients and teams and the health care industry more broadly.

My Deloitte colleagues in the financial services industry (especially banking) are applying blockchain technologies in exciting ways that offer clear lessons and encouragement for potential blockchain adoption in health insurance business processes and transactions. While it seems likely that blockchain in health insurance will take a number of years to achieve scale, I’m increasingly confident that blockchain is poised to move beyond the health information technology (IT) hype cycle and into the adoption and impact phases of the emerging technology lifecycle.

We recently published research on blockchain’s potential through a cross-industry collaboration between the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions and the Deloitte Center for Financial Services. In Blockchain in health and life insurance, our researchers used a crowdsourcing approach – bringing together experts in blockchain, cybersecurity, health insurance, and life insurance – to discover how blockchain can help improve value exchange, manage risks, cut costs, and improve customer satisfaction. It identified a number of practical use cases that can positively impact health and life insurance companies—and just as importantly, their customers and business partners. Some of the use cases that we found most compelling were:
• Enabling truly interoperable electronic health records
• Supporting claims processing and other administrative transactions through smart contracts
• Detecting fraud and abuse
• Improving provider directory accuracy

We found opportunities to leverage blockchain across the insurance value chain – from applications to administration, underwriting to alternative payment models, claims management to fraud mitigation, and cyber security to data privacy.

I’m personally enthusiastic about blockchain as a fundamental enabler of the health care industry’s shift from fee-for-service payment models to value-based care and financial arrangements. While industry leaders and thought leaders seem nearly unanimous in their support for this volume-to-value transformation, the administrative complexity that underlies these new models is daunting. Blockchain technologies can offer promising strategic solutions to the technical complexities of value-based care.

Many government leaders and health care experts and leaders are finding similar promise in blockchain. This past summer, the US Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) sponsored an ideation challenge to solicit white papers on opportunities for blockchain in the health care industry. The 15 winning papers (including one submitted by Deloitte) identified a range of possibilities that included payment models, privacy, interoperability, claims processing, clinical trials, health information exchange, patient reported outcome measures, and many other topics.1 Meanwhile, the American Enterprise Institute testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health last May that blockchain incorporates features that would be needed for advanced prospective risk adjustment.2 And, Humana CEO Bruce Broussard published an article that expressed his views on the transformational power of blockchain across the health care industry, with a particular emphasis on how blockchain can help simplify an industry that is simply not user-friendly today.3

Count me among the optimists.

1 The ONC office for health IT Use of Blockchain in Health IT and Health-Related Research” Ideation Challenges selected 15 winning white papers
2 AEI testimony to Congress, May 2016
3 Bruce Broussard, “Blockchain: Transformational Technology for Health Care,” August 8, 2016

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Author bio

Greg Scott, Deloitte Consulting LLP, is national leader of the Health Plans Practice. He has over 25 years of industry experience as a management consultant, insurance company executive, and government official. Greg’s expertise includes health system reform, Medicare, Medicaid, market strategy, operational performance improvement, and M&A. He has served commercial health plans, integrated delivery systems, PBMs, and federal and state government agencies. Greg joined Deloitte in 1998.