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  • Writer's pictureP Xenos and M Bacina

China conscripts blockchain to combat novel coronavirus

Insurance firms in China have begun to utilize blockchain technology to manage coronavirus-related claims amid the ongoing outbreak.

It has been recently reported that Chinese online mutual aid platform Xiang Hu Bao added the coronavirus to the illnesses eligible for the maximum one-time payout of around AUD$21,333 (100,000 yuan).

Xiang Hu Bao is a blockchain-based collective claim-sharing platform that deploys blockchain technology in order to minimise risks of fraud and allow for faster and more seamless claim processing by insurers.

Xiang Hu Bao is owned by Chinese finance giant Ant Financial and uses mobile payment processing service AliPay. Alipay funds the payouts for coronavirus victims with its own capital. A firm’s spokesman said (emphasis added):

Xiang Hu Bao has been able to process claims and make payouts to participants quicker, due to the decentralised, trust-free nature of blockchain technology. Claim applicants can submit their supporting documents as evidence while investigation firms can get immediate access to them on the blockchain. All parties involved can see the entire process.

Blue Cross Insurance, owned by the Bank of East Asia, has also been reportedly helping to decrease the bureaucratic impact of the coronavirus outbreak with a medical claims app. The insurance service’s managing director Patrick Wan said (emphasis added):

Our blockchain-backed claims service has played a key role during the outbreak of the coronavirus by totally eliminating the paper process and the need for back-and-forth documents delivery to clinics. This really helps to mitigate the risk of infection from face-to-face contact.

Blue Cross Insurance claims that its platform is capable of managing over 1,000 transactions per second without human involvement. So far, since its launch in April 2019, the medical claims app has on average seen a double-digit monthly policyholder user base growth. Patients using the app are said to usually see the result of their claims within a day after their hospital visit.

This is not the only deployment of blockchain towards combating the coronavirus in China. Alipay has also launched a blockchain-based information protocol service to assist in tracking supplies that are needed to combat the outbreak. According to CN Stock, Alipay released the platform in China earlier in the year with the Zhejiang Province Medical Materials Security Group utilizing the technology to track materials such as masks, gloves, protective gear, and caps on-chain.

The sudden and rapid outbreak of Coronavirus primarily in China (with staggering numbers infected and dying) has seen the supply of equipment and donation of supplies receive strong attention in provinces that have been hit the worst, including Wuhan and Hebei.

Alipay says that its platform instills trust in the network and upholds credible connections. Moreover, since all links and confirmations can be tracked and displayed on the chain, the risk of fraud should be reduced. The platform has already hit the ground in some of the affected provinces and time will tell if these claims are true.

Blockchain can be a huge source for social good, and central gatekeepers like insurers have significant incentives to get moving on deploying this technology before disruptive players beat them to it. Although the coronavirus may only face early iterations of blockchain technology, in the future a more blockchain connected supply chain may assist in preventing the shortages we have been seeing in the material so desperately needed to halt the coronavirus.


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