IBM, Aetna, healthcare companies to create blockchain network

IBM, Aetna, Anthem, Health Care Service Corporation and PNC Bank are working together to design and create a blockchain network to improve transparency and interoperability in the healthcare industry, the companies announced.

Blockchain, which was popularized during the rise of crypto currencies such as Bitcoin, is described as a decentralized ledger of all transactions in a network. Its applications in the healthcare space are still emerging, but the technology remains a high priority for many companies.

Through the collaboration, the companies will create an inclusive blockchain network that serves as a secure and shared environment for the healthcare ecosystem. The goal of the project is to create a space that enables healthcare companies to build, share and deploy solutions that drive digital transformation in the healthcare industries.

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

The healthcare industry, including the field of AI, has struggled with various transparency and interoperability issues. Last week, the American Heart Association and six other hospital groups released a six-point national agenda outlining how hospitals can achieve interoperability. Earlier this year, Duke researchers were awarded a grant to address transparency struggles in AI-based clinical decision support systems.

More members are expected to be added to the network, including other healthcare organizations, providers, startups and technology companies.

"We are committed to improving the healthcare consumer experience and making our healthcare system work more effectively," Claus Jensen, chief technology officer at Aetna, now owned by CVS Health, said in a statement. "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."