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US health insurer Anthem adopts innovative blockchain solution

By Ashley Norris

Technology harnessed so customers can share medical records with third parties

In a significant boost for technology, the US’s second-largest health insurance company has unveiled plans to use blockchain to manage the medical data of its members.

Anthem, which boasts more than 40 million customers, is running a pilot test with small groups of members who are using a mobile app to scan a QR code. The pilot enables participants to make use of blockchain’s security and flexibility to instantly allow different healthcare providers to access their health records for a limited amount of time. The company has added that it will roll out further trials throughout 2020.

Blockchain technology has in recent years been high profile in the US. However the country’s larger enterprises have been slow to adopt it. The most significant examples tend to be financial companies such as American Express and tech companies such as Oracle. More recently food retailers, including Walmart Canada, Douwe Egberts and Raw Seafoods, have been using blockchain to solve logistical problems and increase transparency for both suppliers and buyers.

Its supporters claim that blockchain solutions not only improve data security and accessibility, but can also remove friction and duplication and save administrative costs.

Anthem's plans, which have been in motion since the start of 2019, are a collaboration with health insurance giant Aetna, PNC Bank and IBM.

Anthem’s chief digital officer, Rajeev Ronanki, says the company plans to have about a dozen uses for blockchain of which 40 per cent are already live. The blockchains that they are using are Hyperledger Fabric, Burrow and Indy.

Anthem CEO Gail Boudreaux said at the 8th Annual Forbes Healthcare Summit in New York, “What blockchain potentially gives us the opportunity to do is not worry about those trust issues. We have an opportunity now to share data that people can make their own decisions on.”

Rajeev Ronanki added, “We're essentially creating a permission-based system that would allow consumers to own their healthcare data and then make it available to providers as appropriate.”

FURTHER READING: Walmart Canada announces blockchain-based logistics solution

FURTHER READING: Paris blockchain incubator aims to put France at heart of tech boom

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