Three of the nation’s biggest healthcare insurers have partnered with IBM and PNC to bring blockchain to healthcare. AETNA, Anthem and the Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) have joined forces to find ways to cut costs and secure data using blockchain encryption.
“The aim is to create an inclusive blockchain network that can benefit multiple members of the healthcare ecosystem in a secure, shared environment,” the companies stated. “The goal is to allow the blockchain network to enable healthcare companies to build, share and deploy solutions that drive digital transformation in the industry.”
Aptly named the Health Utility Network, the next stage in the multi-company collaboration is to identify test-users that will showcase the benefits of blockchain for secured health data transfer. After that, it will be about recruiting additional members ranging from providers to developers. The main goal, the businesses say, is to cut administrative costs by reducing inefficiencies and replications linked to erroneous data.
“This alliance will enable healthcare-related data and business transactions to occur in [a] way that addresses market demands for transparency and security, while making it easier for the patient, payor and provider to handle payments,” said PNC Treasury Management Head of Product Chris Ward. “Using this technology, we can remove friction, duplication, and administrative costs that continue to plague the industry.”
While blockchain has received mixed-reactions from the healthcare community, there’s been movement towards a wider acceptance amongst payors. In December, Aetna joined the Synaptic Health Alliance, a pilot project aimed at improving accuracy provider directories – which costs a claimed $2.1 billion for the industry to maintain. Anthem also jumped on the blockchain bandwagon with their doc.ai partnership to run an artificial intelligence data trial using the encryption method.
While the five-company coalition has modest goals of managing administrative costs in the short term, the potential for blockchain applications in the industry are wide-ranging. Access to clinical data, for example, could have implications for advances in research and for being able to tailor specific therapies to certain individuals and populations.
“Blockchain’s unique attributes make it suitable for large networks of members to quickly exchange sensitive data in a permissioned, controlled, and transparent way,” said Lori Steele, IBM’s General Manager of Healthcare and Life Sciences. “The fact that these major players have come together to collaborate indicates the value they see in working together to explore new models that we think could drive more efficiency in the healthcare system and ultimately improve the patient experience.”