As with other cryptocurrencies, Universal Health Coins could be “mined” by both consumers and health care providers. (Image: Shutterstock)

Blockchain and Bitcoin, two tech buzzwords that seem to be making more and more appearances in other industries these days. Bitcoin in particular has garnered a lot of attention in recent weeks, rising to unprecedented value before a series of volatile dips and recoveries.

What could it do for health care? Take away piles of paperwork and administrative red tape, for one. That’s the proposal of Universal Health Coin, a financial system built on blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, replacing third-parties (including brokers, insurers and the government) with artificial intelligence.

Think of it as reference-based pricing, universal health care and The Matrix, all rolled into one.

The startup’s proposed token-based (specifically, NEO. You can jump down that rabbit hole here) health care system would use blockchain to record and validate patients’ medical procedures, then calculate a negotiated cash price, paid automatically to providers in cryptocurrency. No medical billing, no EOB, no FSA accounts.

Creators Courtney Jones and Dr. Gordon Jones estimate the system could reduce health care costs by 45 to 55 percent.

“UHC  is  an  anonymous,  token-based  shared  healthcost  network  that  calculates  the spend across  a distributed-ledger-system blockchain,” the creators write in their white paper, released last December. “Probability of spend is calculated based on proprietary algorithms embedded in the system. Healthcare Events (HCE) are validated andUHCconvertsin real-time to USD (or other local fiats) to pay health service providers through smart contracts covering the healthcare expenses of UHC members.”

Instead of paying a monthly insurance premium, consumers would contribute a defined amount to their UHC Wallet, which is then converted into cryptocurrency and pooled with others’ contributions. Utilizing a consumer’s basic health information, algorithms and artificial intelligence create clusters of like members for which future health events can be predicted and planned for.  

Every transaction, or HCE, between a patient and provider is systematically recorded and stored in one block of the blockchain.

As with other cryptocurrencies, Universal Health Coins could be “mined” by both consumers and health care providers through a process the company calls Proof of Performance. Through the system, members mine UHC by adhering to a healthy lifestyle and attaining goals set by their health care provider.

The health care provider, in return, earn coins by providing superior service and creating measurable patient outcomes.

The complexities go deeper than that, of course, and can be read in full detail here.

UHC is one of several such tech-enabled health care startups trying to disrupt how care is consumed and compensated for. Other startups in this space include a medical-cost share organization Sharable.Life, HealthNexus, a blockchain-oriented distributed care system, YouBase, BlockchainHealth and Healthcoin.

Such companies will have to overcome significant obstacles to create a viable system, including the volatility and lack of trust in crypto-currencies, not to mention finding health care systems and administrators willing to buy into their experiment.