Synaptic Health Alliance, from Blockchain Pilot to Real-world Savings

Though blockchain remains very much a work in progress for health insurers, one of the industry’s first significant forays into the technology is yielding promising early returns.

Though blockchain remains very much a work in progress for health insurers, one of the industry’s first significant forays into the technology is yielding promising early returns.

The Synaptic Health Alliance was formed in 2018 by Aetna, UnitedHealth Group and Humana; a provider network, MultiPlan Corp.; and Quest Diagnostics, the testing company. It is still going strong after three years, according to Mark Taylor, a spokesman for Humana.

“Synaptic Health Alliance's pilot program has transitioned to a live product that is creating value for the alliance members,” he told Managed Healthcare Executive®. “It is incorporated into operational processes and expanding to include additional geographic areas.”

The program is focused on using blockchain to improve provider directories. Blockchain makes it possible to more quickly share up-to-date provider demographic data, ultimately cutting administrative costs while also increasing the quality and accuracy of the data in the directories.

“A decentralized approach to exchanging information allows companies to avoid building duplicative point-to-point connections,” he explained.

Taylor said one of the challenges to implementing blockchain technology is that it requires companies to rethink how they interact with each other. “Many of the challenges are not technical, but more related to different approaches to governance, ownership and a new decentralized architecture,” he said.

Another sticking pointing is projecting the financial benefits of blockchain-enabled efficiencies, Taylor said. But progress being made by the alliance and others is building confidence, he said.

The Synaptic Health Alliance members have found ways to build incentives into their program in order to ensure the program is financially stable and mutually beneficial for all the members, noted Taylor.

The alliance recently added five new members, including the 52-hospital Providence health system. As more members join, Taylor hopes the experiment can eventually spark broader implementation of blockchain within the healthcare industry. “It will take a significant effort to make a change of this magnitude, given the complexities of the healthcare ecosystem,” he said. “But the possibility is there.”