There has been lots of hype about blockchain’s potential to crack the interoperability and data security nuts, but the technology is still largely unproven in healthcare. Interoperability is one of industry’s most difficult challenges, so that could be an important implementation.

In January, San Francisco startup Akiri launched a vendor-agnostic tool, called Akiri Switch, that uses blockchain to securely transmit information using codes. The technology allows organizations to safely move information between disparate systems, verify data sources and destinations and build trusted applications for providers, payers and patients.

The company has financial backing from the American Medical Association. Also this year, Humana, MultiPlan, UnitedHealth Group’s Optum and UnitedHealthcare, and Quest Diagnostics announced an initiative using blockchain to improve data quality and reduce time and costs associated with changes to demographic data.

The joint pilot program will look at how blockchain can ensure the accuracy of network provider directories at any given time. And last month, Walmart won a patent for a system that stores an individual’s medical information in a blockchain database and allows first responders to retrieve it in the event of a medical emergency.

According to the IDC report, blockchain’s greatest promise lies in its ability to democratize data access and automate data processes. In particular, it could enhance interoperability by functioning as “next-generation middleware” that blends health data with decentralized, disseminated and fixed qualities. Read more from…

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