Aetna, Anthem and Cleveland Clinic back blockchain venture to improve healthcare efficiency

blockchain technology
Avaneer Health was founded by a consortium of top industry heavyweights to improve transparency and interoperability in healthcare. (LuckyStep48/Getty Images)

Big healthcare players Aetna, Anthem and Cleveland Clinic are backing a new venture that uses blockchain technology to improve efficiencies in healthcare.

Avaneer Health was founded by a consortium of top industry heavyweights to improve transparency and interoperability in healthcare. Health Care Service Corporation, IBM, The PNC Financial Services Group Inc. and Sentara Healthcare are also involved in the consortium.

The new venture builds off a collaboration between Aetna, PNC Bank, IBM, Anthem and HCSC announced in 2019 to develop a blockchain healthcare network. That initiative has focused on using blockchain to address a range of industry challenges, including “promoting efficient claims and payment processing, to enable secure and frictionless healthcare information exchanges, and to maintain current and accurate provider directories," officials said. 

Blockchain technology works by using a public ledger to track the origin of a source of information, then links those sources to update information in a decentralized way.

Avaneer Health grew out of the health utility network and is launching as a standalone business with a significant investment from its founders, the company announced in a press release.

RELATED: Aetna, IBM launching new blockchain healthcare network

The company is a member-based utility network that aims to eliminate inefficiencies in the American healthcare system through blockchain solutions.

JPMorgan Chase executive Stuart Hanson will lead the new venture, which will officially debut at HIMSS21. With a strong track record of building innovative businesses, teams and new models in healthcare transaction processing, Hanson brings a wealth of industry expertise and connectivity to drive the strategy of Avaneer Health, according to the company.

Hanson currently serves as managing director and senior healthcare industry executive at JPMorgan Chase where he led the healthcare payments business. Prior to this, Hanson held leadership positions at Change Healthcare, Citi and Fifth Third Bank.

Avaneer Health enters the market with an expert team of change agents, investment from top industry players and a technology backbone designed to support a vast array of platforms for greater applicability and use in reducing administrative costs, accelerating care and improving the experience for people and their families, according to the company.

"Avaneer Health is uniquely positioned to change how we manage the modern healthcare ecosystem," said Marvin Richardson, co-chair of Avaneer Health's board of directors, and senior vice president and chief information officer of HCSC, which operates health plans in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. "The organization is executing on the vision of an inclusive infrastructure – a utility network—for the healthcare industry."

"This utility network will provide the answers needed to deliver outstanding care and service to people, which today are opaque and in latent silos. Avaneer Health has the potential to change every aspect of the healthcare experience," said Tim Skeen, senior vice president and CIO, Sentara Healthcare, in a statement. 

Hanson also served as chair of the HIMSS Health Business Solutions Committee and the Revenue Cycle Improvement Task Force, which focuses on reducing transactional friction in healthcare, specifically on the emergence of a consumer-centric view of healthcare revenue and payment cycle solutions.

RELATED: How Anthem is using blockchain technology to free up members' data

"I'm excited for this opportunity to help solve healthcare's biggest challenges," said Hanson in a statement. "I'm looking forward to working with both the Avaneer Health team and our industry partners, driving the strategy and building positive momentum for Avaneer Health."

There have been several healthcare team-ups launched in the past few years focused on using the decentralized ledger technology for healthcare use cases. 

They join other collaboratives testing blockchain in the healthcare industry, including the Synaptic Health Alliance, formed by Aetna, Humana, MultiPlan, Quest Diagnostics and UnitedHealth Group. Centene, Cognizant, CorVel, Prime Health Services and Providence also have joined that collaborative. That alliance is focused on using the distributed ledger technology to improve the accuracy of provider directories.

Tech giant IBM has leveraged its expertise with blockchain technology to help address medical supply chain shortages due to COVID-19.  The company launched a blockchain network called Rapid Supplier Connect to help government agencies and healthcare organizations more quickly identify and onboard alternative vendors of supplies and equipment.