Health insurance company Anthem has begun using blockchain technology to help patients securely access and share their medical information. The feature is pilot testing now, but Anthem plans on rolling it out to groups of members over the next several months. According to Anthem officials, all members will have access to the feature within the next two to three years.
“What blockchain potentially gives us the opportunity to do is not worry about those trust issues,” said Anthem CEO Gail Boudreaux at the 8th Annual Forbes Healthcare Summit in New York. “We have an opportunity now to share data that people can make their own decisions on.”
The blockchain partnership has been in the works for most of 2019. Back in January, Anthem announced that it was working with Aetna, Health Care Service Corporation, IBM, and PNC Bank on a blockchain project. The goal, according to Anthem chief digital officer Rajeev Ronanki, was to keep patient data private while expanding interoperability and trust between partners.
Companies from a wide range of industries have adopted blockchain recently, and the potential benefits for the healthcare industry are especially extensive. Blockchain allows medical data to be moved securely and without redundancies — giving patients more immediate access to their medical records and controlling who views their records and when.
In the Anthem pilot program, patients can open an app on their phones, scan a QR code, and instantly grant healthcare providers access to their medical records. When the appointment is over, users can just as easily revoke access and make their records private again. Right now, the system is live for a pilot test group of 200 company employees, but Anthem plans to roll it out to members beginning in 2020.
Ronanki says Anthem is already using blockchain in about a dozen other ways — 40 percent of which are already live and the rest of which will launch in the near future. The blockchains the company is utilizing are Hyperledger Fabric, Burrow, and Indy.
“We think it’s a pretty transformative thing for health,” Ronanki told Forbes.
“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,” he said.
Anthem also plans to use blockchain to process insurance claims and coordinate benefits faster. As it stands now, when patients are covered by more than one provider, chasing down information can be time-consuming and cause a delay in processing claims. With blockchain, Anthem will be able to access the most current data about which person or treatments are covered by which company. “We can create trusted partnerships without having to share the underlying data,” Ronanki said.