Even though the original Bitcoin whitepaper was strictly focused on providing a digital cash solution, the underlying blockchain and its distributed ledger system ended up getting a lot of attention, particularly with regard to its potential applications beyond the financial services industry. In mid-December, a major insurance company announced in the United States announced its intention to put a blockchain application to the test, and details about this project are certainly interesting.

In terms of market capitalization, Anthem is the second largest insurance company in the U.S. With more than 40 million subscribers to its medical insurance plans, Anthem hopes to develop a blockchain system to manage healthcare and patient data in a more efficient and secure fashion; moreover, the company would also like to enable patients to share their medical information as they see fit. To a certain extent, Anthem already has a pretty good records management system in place, but the issue that the company is most concerned about is data privacy and security.

The blockchain solution that Anthem is working on has started the initial testing phase. The distributed ledger features of the blockchain were reasonable simple to figure out for the development team; the front-end and user interface, which involves the use of mobile apps and quick-response (QR) codes to be scanned so that they can grant permission to healthcare professionals who need to access their electronic medical records.

As an American medical insurance provider, Anthem falls under the compliance reach of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which sets a strict set of guidelines for data collection, storage, and communications. Injecting HIPAA compliance into the blockchain has thus far been a straightforward task for Anthem. The company is not alone in this test, which will roll out to thousands of Americans starting in 2020; IBM is providing technology support while fellow insurer Aetna has also participated along with PNC Bank.

The future role of blockchain in the healthcare industry is largely dependent on how developers advance applications related to electronic health records, which have become the standard format of health information not just for insurance companies but also for hospitals and clinics.