How the Blockchain Can Fix Medicaid

Blockchain is best known as the distributed ledger technology underlying the digital crypto-currency Bitcoin. But can it also help fix Medicaid? That’s the surprising application outlined by IFTF’s Blockchain Futures Laboratory in a new white paper that was a winning submission in the US Department of Health and Human Services’ “Use of Blockchain in Health IT and Health-related Research Challenge.”

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) selected the winning papers based on their “proposed solutions or recommendations for market viability; creativity; ability to inform and foster transformative change; and potential to support a number of national health and health information objectives, including advancing the flow of health information for where and when it is needed most.” IFTF is in esteemed company, including winning submissions from MIT, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, UC San Diego, and the Mayo Clinic.

“While many know about Blockchain technology’s uses for digital currency purposes, the challenge submissions show its exciting potential for new, innovative uses in health care,” said Vindell Washington, M.D., M.H.C.M., national coordinator for health IT.

IFTF is one of a handful of organizations invited to present in Washington DC at the “Use of Blockchain for Healthcare and Research” workshop co-hosted by ONC and the National Institute of Standards and Technology on September 26-27.

In the winning paper, IFTF researchers Kathi Vian, Alexander Voto, and Katherine Haynes-Sanstad introduce a strategy for creating smart health profiles that could provide easy access to health services while protecting privacy and security of individual health, financial, and citizenship information. They suggest that a smart health profile could alleviate the specific problem of churning in the Medicaid program—that is, the constant exit and reentry of beneficiaries as a result of eligibility changes. And that’s just its first application.

“As a sophisticated tool in the blockchain toolkit, the smart health profile can also prepare health IT and health research to take advantage of emerging artificial intelligence systems and may eventually lead to entirely new models of health care delivery,” they write.

IFTF’s research on blockchain and health embodies our efforts to focus conversation and action on “urgent futures,” developments and opportunities with such extraordinary potential for changing the human landscape that we must pursue them, for to ignore them would be at our own peril.

IFTF’s award-winning white paper is available for download here: “A Blockchain Profile for Medicaid Applicants and Recipients” (PDF)

To read all of the winning white papers, visit: “ONC announces Blockchain challenge winners

And for more on IFTF’s blockchain research, please visit the Blockchain Futures Laboratory blog.