IBM creates blockchain network for medical industry

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IBM and partners want use blockchain to improve transparency and interoperability in the healthcare industry.
IBM and partners want use blockchain to improve transparency and interoperability in the healthcare industry.

IBM has inked a deal with several partners in the medical fraternity to use blockchain technology to improve transparency and interoperability in the healthcare industry.

IBM yesterday announced a collaboration with Aetna, a managed healthcare company; Anthem, a heath insurance firm; and financial services provider, PNC, to create an inclusive blockchain network that can benefit multiple members of the healthcare ecosystem.

The goal of the collaboration is to allow the blockchain network to enable healthcare companies to build, share and deploy solutions that drive digital transformation in the industry.

The organisations say despite major initiatives to digitise healthcare information, improvements in transparency and interoperability among various groups in the healthcare system are still necessary.

They point out that by reducing administrative errors and friction through the application of blockchain technology, healthcare information could be exchanged more efficiently. They believe these improvements, once realised, could help enhance patient care and reduce unnecessary costs.

The collaboration members intend to use blockchain to address a range of industry challenges, including promoting efficient claims and payment processing, to enable secure and frictionless healthcare information exchanges, and to maintain current and accurate provider directories.

"Blockchain's unique attributes make it suitable for large networks of members to quickly exchange sensitive data in a permissioned, controlled and transparent way," says Lori Steele, general manager for healthcare and life sciences at IBM.

"The fact that these major healthcare 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."

Chris Ward, head of product, PNC treasury management, comments: "This collaboration will enable healthcare-related data and business transactions to occur in way that addresses market demands for transparency and security, while making it easier for the patient, payer and provider to handle payments.

"Using this technology, we can remove friction, duplication and administrative costs that continue to plague the industry."

The partners are actively working to further define the initial use cases for the health utility network.

They will add further members to the network in the coming months, including other health organisations, healthcare providers, start-ups and technology companies.

"We are committed to improving the healthcare consumer experience and making our healthcare system work more effectively," says Claus Jensen, chief technology officer at Aetna.

"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."

Rajeev Ronanki, chief digital officer of Anthem, says: "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."

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