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Healthcare Organizations Form Synaptic Health Alliance, Explore Blockchain’s Impact On Data Quality



By Benjamin Ross

December 5, 2018 | The boom of blockchain and distributed ledger technologies have inspired healthcare organizations to test the capabilities of their data. Quest Diagnostics, in partnership with Humana, MultiPlan, and UnitedHealth Group’s Optum and UnitedHealthcare, have launched a pilot program that applies blockchain technology to improve data quality and reduce administrative costs associated with changes to healthcare provider demographic data.

The collective body, called Synaptic Health Alliance, explores how blockchain can keep only the most current healthcare provider information available in health plan provider directories. The alliance plans to share their progress in the first half of 2019.

Providing consumers looking for care with accurate information when they need it is essential to a high-functioning overall healthcare system, Jason O’Meara, Senior Director of Architecture at Quest Diagnostics, told Clinical Informatics News in an email interview.

“We were intentional about calling ourselves an alliance as it speaks to the shared interest in improving health care through better, collaborative use of an innovative technology,” O’Meara wrote. “Our large collective dataset and national footprints enable us to prove the value of data sharing across company lines, which has been limited in healthcare to date.”

O’Meara said Quest Diagnostics has been investing time and resources the past year or two in understanding blockchain, its ability to drive purpose within the healthcare industry, and how to leverage it for business value.

“Many health care and life science organizations have cast an eye toward blockchain's potential to inform their digital strategies,” O’Meara said. “We recognize it takes time to learn how to leverage a new technology. We started exploring the technology in early 2017, but we quickly recognized the technology’s value is in its application to business to business use cases: to help transparently share information, automate mutually-beneficial processes and audit interactions.”

Quest began discussing the potential for an alliance with the four other companies a year ago, O’Meara said. Each company shared traits that would allow them to prove the value of data sharing across company lines.

“While we have different perspectives, each member has deep expertise in healthcare technology, a collaborative culture, and desire to continuously improve the patient/customer experience,” said O’Meara. “We also recognize the value of technology in driving efficiencies and quality.”

Following its initial launch in April, Synaptic Health Alliance is deploying a multi-company, multi-site, permissioned blockchain. According to a whitepaper published by Synaptic Health, the choice to use a permissioned blockchain rather than an anonymous one is crucial to the alliance’s success.

“This is a more effective approach, consistent with enterprise blockchains,” an alliance representative wrote. “Each Alliance member has the flexibility to deploy its nodes based on its enterprise requirements. Some members have elected to deploy their nodes within their own data centers, while others are using secured public cloud services such as AWS and Azure. This level of flexibility is key to growing the Alliance blockchain network.”

As the pilot moves forward, O’Meara says the Alliance plans to open ability to other organizations. Earlier this week Aetna and Ascension announced they joined the project.

“I am personally excited by the amount of cross-company collaboration facilitated by this project,” O’Meara says. “We have already learned so much from each other and are using that knowledge to really move the needle on improving healthcare.”

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