Change Healthcare is joining the effort to champion the use of blockchain technology in healthcare information technology, joining a cross-industry group that is leading efforts to develop the technology.

The healthcare IT company has announced its membership in the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger project, a collaborative effort in which members are working toward developing open, distributed ledger technology.

Change Healthcare was formed through a merger of the Technology Solutions unit of McKesson and Change Healthcare Holdings, completed in March. It becomes the first healthcare IT company to join Hyperledger at its premier membership level.

Executives of Change Healthcare say its participation with the technology group will help lead its use from current banking-only implementations into tomorrow’s enterprise healthcare IT solutions. “The goal is to collaborate with Hyperledger members to develop an open, distributed ledger technology that makes secure and safe financial interoperability work better in healthcare,” says Aaron Symanski, chief technology officer for Change Healthcare.

Aaron Symanski

Hyperledger aims to create common distributed ledger technology that enables organizations to build and run robust, industry-specific applications, platforms and hardware systems to support their individual business transactions. Started in 2016, Hyperledger has grown to more than 140 members that span various industries including finance, healthcare, the Internet of Things and aeronautics, among others.

Project executives say it’s working to help the healthcare industry incorporate open source blockchain technologies, kicking off a Healthcare Working Group last October that now includes more than 425 technologists and executives.

"Blockchain is a promising and exciting new technology for secure online transactions," Symanski says. "It's crucial that healthcare leaders step up to champion innovation to help take blockchain from its early implementations to tomorrow's healthcare IT solutions.”

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Change Healthcare is a major claims clearinghouse and revenue cycle management vendor that’s brought it a variety of products from the combination with McKesson's Technology Solutions division, including medical imaging, workflow, business performance services, health information exchange, analytics and its Relay Health unit.

“There are some really interesting things going on with blockchain,” Symanski says. “It has the ability to bring a reconciliation process to the front of the (claims) transaction. It still will take some work—it’s not a technology like a relational database; blockchain is about a community of users where there is a desire among all parties across healthcare to facilitate easier transactions, whether on the financial side or the clinical side. The technology matches a need in healthcare, and the question now is how do we bring all the participants together.”

Blockchain offers the promise of implementing “smart contracts” in healthcare, which take advantage of distributed ledger capabilities to facilitate the distribution of information to when and where it’s needed, Symanski says.

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