MetroHealth tests digital credentials enlisting blockchain, digital wallets

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MetroHealth System is pilot testing the use of digital credentials for physicians.

The organization, which provides healthcare services in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, wants to be able to provide doctors with an updated, reusable and verified set of digital credentials to enable faster and more efficient privileging and payer enrollment processes. In the first wave of offering credentials, more than a dozen doctors participated.

The hope is to reduce credentialing wait times, improve accuracy and alleviate administrative burden. MetroHealth has selected software from vendor Axuall Network, which operates a digital network for verifying identity, credentials and authenticity in real-time and also helps to shorten the hiring process as health organizations move toward telehealth services.

Credentialing establishes physicians’ schooling, licenses and training. Organizations taking on a doctor need to call a physician’s medical school and undergraduate school to double-check that what the physician attests is true.

The pilot test will assess a variety of biometrics to identify persons, but to start, the program will use a fingerprint as the primary identifier, says Julie Jacono, senior vice president and chief strategy officer at MetroHealth.

“We are trying to find ways for doctors to not have unnecessary administrative burdens,” Jacono says. “Credentialing is important in regulatory oversight, but it puts a lot of burden on doctors. This program could give portability without heavy paperwork for the doctor, as a credentialing package is typically hundreds of pages.”

Despite the need to reduce burden, providers and payers have to enforce accuracy in the credentialing process, but that means more paperwork for physicians.

When the credentialing process is fully complete, a blockchain can be used to verify physicians’ credentials, Jacono explains. “This gives portability without paperwork for the doctor. The core part of using blockchain is that if a doctor establishes identity one time, they will never have to do it again.”

The organization also is making available a portable digital wallet, which holds verified information on the provider’s education and experience.

“The portable digital wallet is the time capsule of my education and experience validated in a chip that will accept it as every fact and truth of who I am, what I am and what I have done, and the chip lets me own my own credentialing file instead of my employer,” Jacono explains.

At MetroHealth, the first group of doctors being electronically credentialed are internal medicine specialists and emergency physicians who chose to participate as they are long-term employees of the system, Jacono says.

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