Employers: Here’s how blockchain can boost benefit plans

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LAS VEGAS — The biggest problem with blockchain is most people can’t wrap their head around what it is — never mind how it can help build a benefits package.

But despite the confusion — and perhaps distrust — companies are looking to do just that with the general ledger technology, experts said during an employer panel at HLTH 2019, one of the largest healthcare conferences in the U.S.

“Blockchain is really just the next evolution of the internet,” said Dele Atanda, CEO of MetaMe, a London-based digital data company, during the session. “Its decentralization creates a network of trust, which employers can use to determine which wellness programs suit their workforce.”

Carole Mendoza, director of global health benefits and well-being strategy at IBM, said blockchain often confuses people because of its association with cryptocurrency. Mendoza described blockchain as essentially a spreadsheet that uses artificial intelligence to update its data in real time; the technology keeps datasets secure by spreading the information across millions of computers, instead of one, to prevent cyber-attacks. Mendoza said she’s optimistic the system can ensure data accuracy.

“[Blockchain] has the ability of a machine to think and learn, and take massive amounts of data to analyze and make meaningful inferences. It could remove human bias,” Mendoza said.

Dr. Henry Wei, medical director at Google — and the panel’s moderator — asked how blockchain can be used in the benefits sphere.

Atanda’s company is participating in IBM’s Blockchain Accelerator program, where blockchain startups partner with more established companies. Through this arrangement, AXA, a health insurance company, collaborated with MetaMe to create a blockchain network that employers can use to determine which wellness programs would benefit their workforce.

“With the data, we can recommend what benefit is needed at the right time,” Atanda said.

The blockchain platform makes those recommendations based off employees’ medical records, which will be updated in real time based on data collected from insurance companies, wearables and medical devices. Atanda said it may sound invasive, but blockchain makes it possible to collect this information without sacrificing employee privacy, or violating HIPPA. The data employers receive is compiled from the entire workforce; they won’t receive the medical information of individual employees, unless permission is granted.

“Progressive employers have the opportunity to make a difference and drive innovation,” Mendoza said. “They’ll be able to create more relevant programs because of the information available.”

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