Major Healthcare Firms to Manage Data on the Blockchain with IBM's Guidance

  • IBM to help CVS Health, Aetna, Big Blue, and other American healthcare providers manage data.
  • Patient data will be kept on new blockchain-based systems. 

New York-based tech giant, IBM is reportedly working with major American healthcare providers to improve how sensitive patient information is managed. The patient data will be kept on a blockchain-based database management system.

Participating in the initiative to better manage medical claims processes, while also making transactions more efficient, Big Blue, CVS Health and its subsidiary Aetna (acquired in November 2018) are planning to transform the existing healthcare industry. Commenting on the collaborative effort to improve patient data management, Barbara Hayes, the general manager for payers at IBM Watson Health told CoinDesk

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.

Building A "Blockchain-based Ecosystem"

In addition to Aetna and CVS Health, comprehensive health plan service provider, Anthem and the Health Care Service Corporation (one of the largest US-based health insurance firms) are planning to help IBM develop a “blockchain-based ecosystem.” PNC bank, a Pittsburgh-based financial services and holding company with over $380 billion in total assets, is also part of the IBM-led initiative to leverage blockchain technology, in order to improve existing healthcare services.

Notably, the companies looking to adopt IBM’s distributed ledger technology (DLT)-based software programs reportedly account for nearly 100 million healthcare plans. Explaining how the new blockchain-enabled software will be useful, Hayes first pointed out the current problems:

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

She added that improving the current healthcare system will require analyzing advanced predictions using available data. Based on the results of the analysis, healthcare professionals can work to create solutions that eliminate waste or inefficiencies in existing systems.

Change Healthcare, Hashed Health, SimplyVital Also Working On Blockchain-based Systems

According to IBM, more members are expected to join the tech firm’s Health Utility Network in the next few months. These new members will reportedly include other tech companies, various blockchain and fintech startups, healthcare service providers, and other major health organizations. 

Dr. Bill Lafontaine, the general manager of intellectual property at IBM, noted:

We are going to provide the (software development kits) 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.

Other firms working to better manage patient data and improve the current healthcare system with blockchain include Change Healthcare, Gem, Guardtime, Hashed Health, and SimplyVital.