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Ben Parkison

Director of Product Management

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Feb 18, 2020

It’s Time for Digital Credentials and Identities in Healthcare

Why we need a portable, trusted healthcare identity that’s controlled by the patient.

From the beginning, we at Lumedic have been focused on rethinking the patient financial experience. We’re bringing a fresh perspective and leading-edge technologies to the industry. A key piece of this transformation is an examination of how we think about the patient’s own representation via the technologies used to manage their care, coverage, and billing: Their digital healthcare identity.

The concept of a digital identity is nothing new. Most of us already manage a number of our own digital identities in many different ways.

We represent our professional digital identities on LinkedIn, and we look to LinkedIn to administer that identity and make it available to the world. Our social identities can exist on Facebook or Twitter. For an identity focused on communication and information sharing, we look to platforms like Google. We possess even more dated identities, like our social security numbers or driver’s licenses, administered by the government.

Shockingly, we have no such identity for healthcare.

The information we typically think of as parts of a healthcare identity (medical history, patient financial records) is spread across any number of hospital and clinical systems, insurance companies, and even third-party apps, all of which patients have little control over. Further, the information captured in these systems often remains inaccessible to patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers across different settings, systems, and organizations.

We’ve arrived at this situation because healthcare administrative technologies have evolved to meet the needs of the two major players responsible for the pricing and payment of care: The providers and insurance companies. But over time patients have taken on more and more of the financial burden with the rise of high deductible health plans. At the same time, the technology systems have been slow to evolve, creating a space in which we the patients are now critical financial players. Unfortunately, we don’t have the tools and controls necessary to act as such.

Technologies exist today that allow us to take complete ownership of our healthcare identity. With them, we can manage and control those identities, not from some third-party platform, but directly from our own devices. Distributed ledgers make it possible to create a trusted system in which the patient, provider, and insurance companies all control their own digital identities. With this, we as patients can become an equal player in the exchange, sharing and controlling our own data.

But even more transformation is possible.

If we have a way to trust digital identities associated with insurance companies and patients, those insurance companies can issue trusted, verifiable credentials that the we as patients own. A verifiable insurance credential could contain all the details of a patient’s specific eligibility, coverage, prior authorization, and more.

We as patients would control that credential entirely, allowing us to share that data with our doctors and healthcare administrators as needed, through the tap of a button.

The result is twofold:

For the patient, the experience of providing our personal and coverage information at any point in our episode of care is greatly streamlined and made more secure. No more physical cards, manual data entry, photocopies, or lost data. We simply share exactly the data that’s needed — and only that data — directly from our devices to the healthcare system.

For the provider, an entire costly infrastructure — one that’s focused on maintaining lines of communication with payers and continually updating and validating insurance information — is made more efficient. In many cases, it’s simply eliminated. Rather than reaching out to the payer to ask questions about a given patient, the provider can go directly to that patient.

It’s through this fundamental rethinking of how we as patients digitally represent ourselves in the healthcare space that we can design new systems that restructure incentives for all players to improve the patient financial experience.

By issuing digital credentials, insurance companies can improve their own customer experience and reduce overhead costs. By relying on verifiable digital credentials, providers can immediately get the information they need to proceed to care, in a way that’s secure, automatic, and with a greatly reduced opportunity for errors.

And when we’re granted digital credentials, we as patients can become empowered, equal partners in our healthcare financial journey, while trusting that our own sensitive data is secure and under our control.

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