HHS Architect Talks Blockchain’s Potential Role in Healthcare Administration

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One of the figures behind the blockchain R&D effort within the US Health and Human Services (HHS) Department recently spoke out on the tech’s potential in Medicare and other public-sector functions.

Speaking with Federal News Radio last week, Debbie Bucci, a lead IT architect for the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), discussed the department’s past call for academic papers, which saw more than 70 submissions from a range of sources. She remarked that many of the submissions focused in some way on healthcare administration

Among the possible applications she discussed is using the tech as a publicly viewable layer for U.S. citizens to follow the status of their payments within programs like Medicare or Medicaid.

“For Medicare, Medicaid, maybe the amount you’re paying for – I know that for some processes people go in every quarter and they check their payment status, and so it’s possible there could be a public ledger that authoritative sources may post to that everyone could collectively use as [a reference] for identifying information and possibly processing the calculations to get there,” she told the radio service.

 Elsewhere in the interview, Bucci highlighted the technology’s possible benefits for record-keeping purposes, telling the Federal News:

“The general idea of a blockchain is an authoritative ledger, so certainly anything you want to keep records of – I think it kind of aligns with more of the business processes to assist with healthcare.”

Similarly, she indicated, blockchains can be used as a more efficient method of tracking payments made into and out of both systems, either by storing that information on a public ledger, or holding some information and allowing subscribers to calculate their specific costs and benefits more easily.

The department has not yet pursued any particular blockchain research project, she clarified. At the same time, HHS is staying engaged with the developer community, and Bucci described a recent hackathon at which the winning project focused on the use of blockchain for tracking clinical trial data.

Debbie Bucci image via the Chamber of Digital Commerce

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