Earlier this month, the healthcare technology company Change Healthcare and the software provider TIBCO Software announced that they would be collaborating to create a blockchain-based smart contract system for the healthcare industry.
The system will leverage Change Healthcare's Intelligent Healthcare Network - a blockchain-enabled healthcare transaction network that includes thousands of hospitals, tens of thousands of pharmacies and hundreds of thousands of physicians - and Project Dovetail, TIBCO's smart contract developer.
"Smart contracts in the healthcare space allow the payers and providers to work more effectively together on the information they're sharing," said Aaron Symanski, Change Healthcare's chief technology officer, in an explainer video on the announcement. "Today, it's a very linear process and there are manual steps, there are reconciliations, the data has to be moved between the different parties. Taking a smart contract and doing it on a blockchain reduces the amount of time and complexities significantly."
All told, it aims to be an enterprise-friendly means of creating blockchain-powered smart contracts that enable more efficient claims adjusting, payment processing and other transactions that power the healthcare industry. Project Dovetail provides a user-friendly interface meant to make it easier for businesses to build their own smart contracts, while the Change Healthcare Intelligent Healthcare Network will serve as the blockchain layer that enables these smart contracts to function.
"Smart contracts and the creation thereof are very technical," explained Mike Myburgh, a principal consultant with TIBCO, during an interview at the recent Distributed: Health conference, adding that this can be a barrier that keeps enterprises from leveraging the technology to improve their processes. "With Dovetail, we're going to make it easier for you to develop smart projects by modeling it.
Critically, the platform will be open source, enabling developers to contribute directly to the architecture.
"What we see is an opportunity to build development tools to allow for healthcare's engineers to quickly design and build blockchain applications," said Emily Vaughn, Change Healthcare's product director of blockchain, during a Distributed: Health presentation on the partnership. "This is going to be a platform built by healthcare developers for healthcare developers."
The solution is surely a welcome one in an industry that has needed the benefits of blockchain integration - including increased transparency, cost-effectiveness and big data management - but has been woefully short on actual products to date. In the near future, this collaboration could yield hands-on solutions for some of healthcare's most fundamental but labor-intensive activities, such as claims processing.
"One of the goals with this platform is for organizations to offer their own edits on claims," said Symanski in an interview with Distributed.com . "Today, that's a very manual process … With [blockchain-powered] smart contracts, organizations will be able to do that graphically."
Time will tell just how the healthcare industry leverages the new offering. But it could prove to be one of the most significant steps in encouraging the widespread adoption of blockchain solutions for an industry in desperate need.