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IBM announces blockchain healthcare initiative with Aetna, Anthem, PNC Bank

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Today IBM announced a new blockchain-based healthcare ecosystem with health insurance companies Aetna, Anthem, Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) and PNC Bank. The aim is to leverage blockchain to drive digital transformation in the industry.

The planned scope of the project includes claims and payment processing, health data exchanges, and up-to-date provider directories.

Anthem with 2017 revenues of $90 billion and Aetna with 2017 revenues of $60 billion are two of the top five US health insurers. Health Care Service Corporation is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and has 15 million members in its plans in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

“Through the application of blockchain technology, we’ll work to improve data accuracy for providers, regulators, and other stakeholders, and give our members more control over their own data,” said Claus Jensen, CTO at Aetna, a CVS Health business.

Last year Aetna joined another blockchain consortium, the Synaptic Health Alliance, with two other top-five insurers Humana (2017 revenues $54 billion) and United Healthcare (2017 revenue $200 billion). The group is developing a provider directory to maintain up-to-date details of hospitals, medical practices, and their staff’s licenses and qualifications.

Startup Hashed Health is tackling the same problem from the hospital perspective through its ProCredEx consortium. Today provider data and credentialing is a huge cost for both insurers and providers. For example, credentialing a new team member takes on average 80 days and costs $7,500 per day of delay. Hashed Health envisions not just saving that money but also creating new business models.

Back to the IBM initiative, and Rajeev Ronanki, Chief Digital Officer of Anthem, emphasized the consumer. “We view Blockchain as an enabler for establishing trust. Timely access to medical information has been a stumbling block for creating a seamless consumer experience. With a trusted foundation based on transparency and cryptography, we will provide a faster, safer and more secure way to exchange medical information to transform the consumer healthcare experience.”

Another major player in US healthcare and blockchain is technology company Change Healthcare which is also planning to enable these patient engagements using blockchain. It’s one of the major clearing houses for settling US health insurance claims and its systems touch $1.7 trillion in billings annually.