By Ben Flock, chief healthcare strategist, TEKsystems.
Healthcare professionals know that blockchain is coming, but there is still some apprehension associated with the technology. The cryptocurrency industry first pioneered this technology and its results have been highly impressive. But when it comes to the healthcare industry, there is a lack of proven use cases, leading to a delay in blockchain’s widespread adoption.
To pull back the curtain on the reluctance to adopt blockchain technology, TEKsystems partnered with HIMSS Analytics to host a focus group of business and technology leaders from the payer, provider, pharma and public sector. The goal: to better understand customer needs and business challenges when it comes to actually implementing blockchain.
Findings revealed that, as most in the industry already know or suspect, there is a limited overall understanding of blockchain technology. However, it seems that this limited knowledge is the foundation for most of the apprehension toward widely adopting the technology. Additional roadblocks that contribute to this apprehension include the lack of impactful use cases, fears of what the unspecified governance of data could mean for compliance, security concerns and industry politics, among others.
There is good news—those who have a basic understanding of blockchain exhibit less apprehension and a more cautious exuberance toward adoption of the technology. As understanding of blockchain grows and more practical examples of its benefits are found, the healthcare industry will become more open to implementing blockchain solutions.
During the focus group, participants discussed proven use cases for blockchain that could be used as industry examples to help increase the general understanding of blockchain technology. The group identified three main use cases that could be implemented in the near term after a short testing period: provider directory updates, expediting the provider credentialing process and prior authorization.
A provider directory was the first use case identified by the focus group. Insurance companies must provide patients with timely, accurate provider contact information and new patient availability. While Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulate provider directory services, many of them are inefficient, costly and often laden with manual processes. With blockchain, the provider ledger could be maintained through a proactive, structured, perpetual process enabling open and direct access to provider information on an as-needed basis. Because provider directory information is already public record, it’s a high-result, low-risk proof-of-concept project.
By Ben Flock, chief healthcare strategist, TEKsystems.
As technology advances, so does the healthcare industry, with technological breakthroughs increasing the ability of healthcare professionals to serve their patients, record and transfer patient data and more efficiently complete other tasks necessary to keep the industry moving. IT services provider TEKsystems recently released the results of a survey that polled almost 200 healthcare IT leaders (e.g., IT directors, chief information officers, IT vice presidents and IT hiring managers) in late 2017/early 2018 on a range of key issues, including technology maturity, workforce planning, critical roles and the top trends shaping healthcare IT today.
The results revealed a shifting focus from IT leaders: healthcare is behind the curve on initiatives that have the potential to shape the industry going forward, including artificial intelligence (AI).
Business demand is driving both the interests of IT leaders and the prioritization of AI in healthcare. Value-based care, regulatory mandates and the consumer push for precision/personalized care are driving the business prioritization of AI. These results indicate that while IT leaders know AI in healthcare is the future, they are currently taking a cautious approach to utilizing the technology. This is very likely rooted in security concerns, as there are federal, state and even local mandates dictating the protection and privacy of patient data.
Although cautious, healthcare organizations are actually proceeding on the AI front. As evidence, survey data shows a high percentage of healthcare organizations are in the implementation, evaluation or refining stage with respect to specific technology applications that leverage AI – digital health systems (75 percent) and telemedicine (51 percent). This pragmatic approach to AI will continue, and healthcare organizations will address this emerging industry imperative by providing IT resources, as well as enabling platform technologies and repeatable solutions capabilities in secure applications and solutions that leverage artificial intelligence.
To ensure IT employees are aware of the need to be cautious when implementing AI initiatives, organizations must ensure adequate onboarding and ongoing risk and compliance (R&C) training is provided. An annual “check the box,” activity, R&C training isn’t enough to help employees and third parties manage risk appropriately. The best strategy is to implement a risk-based approach by focusing on higher risk functional areas with direct access to consumers and/or protected health information (PHI), and creating targeted training. Simple education and awareness tactics can dramatically improve compliance when employees and third parties understand how to apply teachings to their area.