Blockchain: The Cure for What Ails Us 

by Tiffany Long in July 19th, 2019
blockchain blog image

Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Yet, many of us maintain the status quo in our professional and personal lives without ever asking, “Why?” Why do we do things this way? Why is this our process? Often times there are good reasons for “why,” and we should continue as we are for now. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to evaluate our processes. In order to develop, we have to grow, and in order to grow, we MUST CHANGE!  

After twenty years as a medical staff services professional, I have seen the impact technology has had on our profession. For instance, licenses are now available online and we use automated programs to “scrape” medical licensing websites for information which takes little to no effort on our part. Remember when we had to call the licensing boards and wait for the verification to come through our fax machine? And this was big technology 15 years ago! NPDB Queries come back instantaneously now; just ten years ago we could wait a couple of days for this information to return, and some of us even remember the carbon copy forms that we used to mail off.

No doubt, we have made huge strides. Yet, we still treat an application submitted to us from a healthcare provider as the complete picture of professional history. Yes, I know they attest to it and therefore it is legally binding. I am not arguing that fact. But how many of us have discovered pertinent information missing from an application by happenstance? Sometimes the missing item is something as innocuous as a date or missing license. Other times it is more serious- such as leaving off a hospital where privileges were revoked or omitting a training program where disciplinary action was taken. These sorts of omissions warrant us to take a deeper look, to ask more questions, and maybe to not even allow this health care provider on our medical staff. However, we can’t take a deeper look at something we do not know about. This is where the insanity part comes in. We all know this happens: some of the best MSPs I know have their own personal horror stories. According to the 2017 NAMSS Roundtable Report, thirty to forty percent of provider applications contain inaccuracies. Where else in life are we allowed to be wrong that many times?

There is good news! A real cure exists for this insanity. With the adoption of blockchain technology, we have a method to create a complete historical record that is immutable. Anytime a verification request is created or completed, it could be documented on the blockchain. For example, when a license is granted or a training program is completed, that information could be recorded to a shared ledger for all other users on the distributed network to see. All users of the distributed network could have the ability to see and add to the blockchain. Together, we could add blocks of primary source verification, allowing for a full application picture to be created and stored indefinitely. Essentially, we could eliminate any possibility of falsifying or submitting an incomplete application. 

In fact, this technology exists today and is already being used in other industries. The World Wildlife Fund is currently using blockchain technology to track seafood shipments to increase transparency and to reduce the risk of illegal fishing practices. The fashion industry is looking into blockchain to better track the life-cycle of a garment, which will allow consumers to have a clear registry of where materials are derived and if they were ethically sourced before making a purchase.  

It is insane to continue down a path rife with costly errors when a better method exists. It is insane to expect a health care provider to complete multiple applications when there is a way to have a complete immutable record stored on a blockchain. And it is insane to deny access to care for patients while we are waiting for credentialing transactions to be completed when they could already be digitally stored and ready for retrieval. The good news is there is a cure for our ailment on the way…enter BlocHealth.

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