PEMBA Alum Applies Blockchain Technology to Physician Credentials

July 25, 2018

For Keel Coleman (PEMBA, ’16), inspiration came in the form of a problem, a new technology, and the Physician Executive MBA program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business.

Coleman is an emergency physician at the Carillion Clinic in Roanoke, Virginia. He has long been frustrated by the outdated and slow process of verifying physician credentials. Recruiting and retaining clinicians is part of his responsibility, and Coleman describes the process of individually documenting each physician’s educational and training history as an arduous bureaucratic exercise.

“Credentialing has not significantly changed since the 1980s,” Coleman said. “We still use faxes, phone calls and the post office. It’s incredibly inefficient and very expensive with costs across the country averaging around $5,000 per recruit. Timelines approach half a year for many new recruitments.”

Coleman was a PEMBA candidate when he got the idea to apply blockchain technology to the process of verifying credentials. The idea germinated as he learned about topics including finance and Lean operations. He consulted with his Haslam professors before launching the startup ArchiveCore with his partner Lennox McNeary.

“ArchiveCore is a software platform that decreases the need to repeatedly go back and independently verify all of the primary sources in a physician’s educational and professional history,” Coleman said. “Instead, you can have all of that verified information instantly at your fingertips. We believe the project can provide effective credentialing at 10 percent of the current cost in less than 10 percent of the time.”

Blockchain, which ArchiveCore is based on, is the same underlying technology cryptocurrency uses. Blockchain creates distributed ledgers that cannot be altered. It has a demonstrated use in global financial systems.

Kate Atchley, executive director of graduate and executive education and director of the PEMBA program at Haslam, sees a great deal of potential in ArchiveCore.

“This type of innovative thinking is what Haslam’s Executive MBA programs are all about,” Atchley said. “The fact that ArchiveCore is applying this leading-edge technology to an area that was previously unaddressed promises to deliver new efficiencies. It really is an exciting startup.”

In addition to finding inspiration for ArchiveCore, Coleman has enjoyed additional career benefits since graduating from PEMBA. At Carillion Clinic, he was selected by senior management to join a group of eight healthcare professionals working to better define the organization’s strategic vision.

“I don’t think that would have happened without having the MBA behind my name,” Coleman said. “Understanding the finance viewpoint was certainly an important factor in being recruited to this position. Between starting ArchiveCore and joining my organization’s strategy group, the Haslam Physician Executive MBA program has delivered fresh opportunities to my career. There is no way I could have done this without PEMBA.”