How healthcare can become more interoperable with a decentralized network
The back-office administration of healthcare is fragmented and full of manual, inefficient processes that impact patient care, provider reimbursement, and costs. These processes are a result of our inability to connect effectively. While payers and providers have invested millions in multiple platforms and legacy systems, some still lack full integration and interoperable functionality.
The annual cost of administrative inefficiencies in the U.S. healthcare system has reached an estimated $496 billion, with billing, coding, physician administrative activities, and insurance administration being primary drivers.
An ecosystem full of obstacles
The challenges of today’s outdated interoperability architecture are significant. From a connectivity standpoint, partner connectivity and workflows require multiple vendors and system integrations. From a data management standpoint, today’s interoperability systems require multiple entities to support, which has led to a lack of traceability, control, and auditability. These third parties must aggregate, store, and repurpose data, which means they control the redistribution to payers, providers, and partners. Because of this, the stakeholders who actually use the data—payers and providers—have little control over when, where, and how they can access it.
Most healthcare organizations have invested in digital and interoperability strategies that, ultimately, have narrow potential and limited scalability. The high costs to maintain connections to multiple third parties require payers and providers to implement and maintain numerous single-use, point-to-point connections.
Regarding infrastructure, we now have a web of interconnected systems that don’t easily adapt to evolving trading partner business needs. This has resulted in a wide array of custom, proprietary integration requirements for APIs and third-party platforms—all of which further deteriorate our industry’s quest for interoperability and administrative efficiencies.
Manual transactions, administrative burdens, incomplete interoperability, and costly and ineffective legacy systems have led to increased total processing spend, provider burnout, poorer outcomes, and limited innovation.
A new kind of interoperability in healthcare
Instead of continuing to add fixes on top of a broken system, healthcare needs to create a new, better system—a system built with a new kind of interoperability.
The term interoperability has different meanings. While we can all agree that sharing data is at the heart of the definition, there are disparities in what that looks like. For example, Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR) has given us a common set of protocols and standards for a payload of transactions on a network. Still, alone, FHIR does not give us full interoperability.
In a truly interoperable healthcare system, data would not need to be requested, aggregated, and validated each time it is needed. Instead, it would be continuously refreshed, always current, and accessible in real time via a secure, decentralized network to those who are permissioned to access it.
What is a decentralized network?
The typical network design consists of a master server that manages all the information and activities on the network. On a decentralized network, there can be multiple servers acting as master servers. They each manage information on their own while still connecting with each other. In this way, they “balance the load and distribute the work across the system.” This helps improve network resiliency and data redundancy; if one node goes down, the others are unaffected. Likewise, because data exists in multiple locations throughout a decentralized network, it cannot be changed in one place without changing it across the network.
Benefits a decentralized network can deliver include:
- Participants have increased data integrity, immutability, and traceability to a single source of truth.
- Data originators maintain control over their data and who has access.
- Data is always available when and where it’s needed without having to be requested, aggregated, and validated.
- Data can be consumed in any format: API, XML, database, etc.
- Participants experience a reduced need to manage multiple interfaces and stand-alone connections.
- As the network grows, data becomes more valuable.
- Due to its structure, participants can leverage the network for unlimited use cases.
Eliminating data silos and resolving payer-provider friction
Health systems and payers have made progress in improving data accessibility throughout their own enterprises, but remain challenged to seamlessly make data accessible between organizations. That lack of data fluidity has led to an industry with a complete lack of transparency that has led to friction, distrust, and data hoarding.
With a decentralized network, payers and providers achieve complete transparency and data fluidity, and they do it without involving third parties. This allows for enriched transactions, providing more actionable patient and procedure-level specificity and clarity. Without a third party, payers and providers require fewer transactions to support operational workflows, while improved data insight supports more effective data management strategies.
This new way of transacting healthcare is not just redesigning current processes. It’s not about just streamlining the way we currently do things. It’s about disrupting how we conduct healthcare and doing things differently. It is about reinventing the business of healthcare.
Another benefit of a decentralized network is its ability to facilitate innovation and host new solutions that can go to market and implement new clients faster. Hundreds of entrepreneurs enter the healthcare industry each year with innovative ideas and solutions that could improve healthcare’s many challenges—from clinical to administrative and beyond. One of the reasons that many don’t succeed is because they aren’t prepared for our industry’s complexities. They quickly discover that there are myriads of issues that must be addressed before they can deploy their solutions, issues primarily around data connectivity. The time and effort required to establish one-to-one connections with payers, providers, and other innovators is so great that many startups fail before they ever reach the scale needed for full deployment. Thus, many brilliant ideas go unfulfilled each year, ideas that have unlimited potential.
With a decentralized network, innovators can more easily access and collaborate with industry stakeholders and other innovators. Leveraging a platform with a common set of tools and services over the network, they can streamline collaboration and develop and deploy new solutions without building individual connections to every entity. In this way, a decentralized network becomes a foundational element and our industry’s first intentional architecture for healthcare.
A new era of interoperability
While we’ve made progress on the road toward interoperability, we have to ask ourselves if our current trajectory can get us where we need to be. Avaneer Health sees a new way forward. We are building a digital ecosystem that accelerates change and enables us to reinvent how healthcare operates. Our decentralized network is now live, and we invite you to join us as we reimagine healthcare together.