IBM Blockchain-Led Project Launches with Aetna, Anthem, PNC Bank and Health Care Service Corp


The healthcare industry seems to be one of the biggest sectors of the economy to potentially benefit from blockchain technology. Keeping this use case in mind, tech giant IBM decided to step in and help with improving the way that patient data is shared, health claims are processed, and every transaction is handled. To do so, IBM is collaborating with major names in healthcare to evaluate blockchain’s use for almost 100 million healthcare plans.

Other players presently include Big Blue, Aetna, Anthem, Health Care Service Corporation, and PNC Bank, making up the majority of the healthcare plans in question. IBM has noted that there are other members planning to join their efforts, which the firm is calling the Health Utility Network, over the next few months. They are hoping to add other health organizations, startups, technology companies, and healthcare providers as their project gains momentum.

The IBM general manager for payers at IBM Watson Health, Barbara Hayes, said,

“IBM is one of the founding members, but everybody has an equal stake across those founding members. It’s so important because you do have competitors side by side who are going after tremendous amounts of waste that is in the healthcare system; 40 cents, 50 cents on the dollar.”

In order to make a difference in the healthcare industry, the collaborators have to use the available data to develop advanced predictions and insights, helping them to reduce the inefficiencies they find.

Elaborating, Hayes said,

“In healthcare, these inefficiencies are in clinical areas and in administrative areas – or just friction that happens in the system which leads to bad customer experience.”

IBM’s general manager of the intellectual property, Dr. Bill Lafontaine, continued on the statements from Hayes, saying,

“We are going to provide the SDKs and other ways to link to the platform. We are leaving this very open because many of the members are bringing different technologies that they have already been investing in and so they get a faster return on that investment.”

Considering the major opportunity afforded in the healthcare industry, there are other firms that have already begun their headway on this fragmented sector. Some of the recognizable names that have begun efforts in blockchain healthcare are Gem, SimplyVital, Hashed Health, and Change Healthcare, though there are many others. Less than a year ago, Quest Diagnostics, Multiplan, and Optum created a blockchain pilot that health insurance providers Humana and United Health Group joined in on.

ProCredEx, a healthcare blockchain, launched in November. However, their priority is to share and store the credentials of providers in both the medical and dental sector. Ultimately, they hope to reduce time and costs in healthcare, though their project is still in the early stages.

PNC Bank, notably outside of the healthcare industry, has been pursuing blockchain technology instead, and have become a part of the many institutions to test out the xCurrent payment system for Ripple.

“The head of product for PNC Treasury Management, Chris Ward, commented on the way that IBM will make payments easiest to process for all entities involved with healthcare claims. He added, Using this technology, we can remove friction, duplication, and administrative costs that continue to plague the industry.”

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