This is a list and description of white papers that investigate the relationship between Blockchain technology and its use in Health IT and/or health-related research. The papers discuss the cryptography and underlying fundamentals of Blockchain technology, examine how the use of Blockchain can advance industry interoperability needs, as well as provide recommendations for Blockchain implementation.

Every once in a while a new technology finds its way in the Gartner Hype Cycle for Technologies in Healthcare and its applied to the use case of Healthcare Records. Access of the Healthcare records to various stakeholders in the care continuum, care providers and patients.

Gartner defines Blockchain as a Digital Platform, and healthcare industry has been perennially on the lookout for a Digital Platform that will allow for an efficient and secure way to share patient data. Providing access to the healthcare data involves providing access to the patient data to relevant stakeholders in a timely manner and to the right person, while ensuring the privacy and providing the patient control of their data. Another problem that remains evasive in healthcare is driven by privacy of the patient data, and has been at times been seen to be impeding the flow of patient data between disparate systems, that’s the problem of Interoperability.

We now have the Blockchain Technology and various companies are working to apply the technology to help solve not only the interoperability problem, but also applying the same technology to solve various use cases in the Care Continuum, to save costs, improve efficiency, and ensure privacy.

So what are the problems Blockchain is being applied to in the Healthcare context? What are the benefits one would accrue by applying Blockchain to Healthcare and what are the pitfalls?

The past august, ONC in the US setout a Blockchain challenge with the objective,

The goal of this Ideation Challenge is to solicit White Papers that investigate the relationship between Blockchain technology and its use in Health IT and/or health-related research. The paper should discuss the cryptography and underlying fundamentals of Blockchain technology, examine how the use of Blockchain can advance industry interoperability needs expressed in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s (ONC) Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap, as well as for Patient Centered Outcomes Research (PCOR), the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI), delivery system reform, and other healthcare delivery needs, as well as provide recommendations for Blockchain’s implementation. In addition to a monetary award, winners may also have the opportunity to present their White Papers at an industry-wide “Blockchain & Healthcare Workshop” co- hosted by ONC and NIST.

As part of the Ideation Challenge, the following papers were the declared winners:

1. Blockchain and Health IT: Algorithms, Privacy, and Data: 

This papers discusses the need to create a peer-to- peer network that enables parties to jointly store and analyze data with complete privacy, based on highly optimized version of multi-party computation with a secret-sharing. An auditable, tamper-proof distributed ledger (a permissioned blockchain) records and controls access through smart contracts and digital identities. We conclude with an initial use case of OPAL/Enigma that could empower precision medicine clinical trials and research.
Authors:  Ackerman Shrier A, Chang A, Diakun-thibalt N, Forni L, Landa F, Mayo J, van Riezen R, Hardjono, T.
Organization:  Project PharmOrchard of MIT’s Experimental Learning “MIT FinTech: Future Commerce.”

2. Blockchain: Securing a New Health Interoperability Experience: 

Blockchain technologies solutions can support many existing health care business processes, improve data integrity and enable at-scale interoperability for information exchange, patient tracking, identity assurance, and validation. This paper suggests these processes can be supported by three most important applications: creating secured and trusted care records, linking identities and recording patient consent decisions and patient directives within the secured patient record.
Authors:  Brodersen C, Kalis B, Mitchell E, Pupo E, Triscott A.
Organization:  Accenture LLP

3. Blockchain Technologies: A Whitepaper Discussing how Claims Process can be Improved:

Smart contracts, Blockchain, and other technologies can be combined into a platform that enables drastic improvements to the claims process and improves the health care experience for all stakeholders. The healthcare industry suffers from an inability to clearly communicate costs in a timely and easy-to-understand format. This problem is a symptom of interoperability issues and complex agreements between providers, patients, health plans/payers and government regulators. These agreements are encoded in legal language with the intent of being defensible in court. However, the focus on legal enforceability, instead of understandability, creates problems resulting in hundreds of billions of dollars spent annually to administer an inefficient, outdated and complex process for adjudicating and paying health plan claims.

The process results in errors and often leaves the patient unclear on how much they need to pay. If these agreements were instead translated into computer code (smart contracts) leveraging Blockchain technologies, the claim process would not only be interoperable, but also drive standardization, research and innovation. Transparency and trust can be injected into the process when both the logic and the data driving these decisions is stored permanently and made available to all stakeholders through a peer-to- peer distributed database like blockchain. The result will be a paradigm shift toward interoperability and transparency, enhancing the speed and accuracy of cost reporting to patients. This paper discusses how smart contracts, blockchain and other technologies can be combined into a platform that enables drastic improvements to the healthcare experience for all stakeholders.
Author:  Culver K. 

4. Blockchain: A new model for Health Information Exchanges:

Presentation of an implementation framework and business case for using Blockchain as part of health information exchange to satisfy national health care objectives.

Authors:  Krawiec RJ, Barr D, Killmeyer K, Filipova M, Nesbit A, Israel A, Quarre F, Fedosva  K, Tsai L.
Organization:  Deloitte Consulting LLP

5. A Case Study for Blockchain in Healthcare: “MedRec” Prototype for Electronic Health Records and Medical Research Data:

A long-standing focus on compliance has traditionally constrained development of fundamental design changes for Electronic Health Records (EHRs). We now face a critical need for such innovation, as personalization and data science prompt patients to engage in the details of their healthcare and restore agency over their medical data.

In this paper, the authors propose MedRec: a novel, decentralized record management system to handle EHRs, using blockchain technology. The system gives patients a comprehensive, immutable log and easy access to their medical information across providers and treatment sites. Leveraging unique blockchain properties, MedRec manages authentication, confidentiality, accountability and data sharing—crucial considerations when handling sensitive information. A modular design integrates with providers’ existing, local data storage solutions, facilitating interoperability and making our system convenient and adaptable.

MedRec incentivize medical stakeholders (researchers, public health authorities, etc.) to participate in the network as blockchain “miners”. This provides them with access to aggregate, anonymized data as mining rewards, in return for sustaining and securing the network via Proof of Work. MedRec thus enables the emergence of data economics, supplying big data to empower researchers while engaging patients and providers in the choice to release metadata.

The purpose of this paper is to expose, in preparation for field tests, a working prototype through which we analyze and discuss our approach and the potential for blockchain in health IT and research.
Authors:  Ekblaw A, Azaria A, Halamka J, Lippman A. 
Organizations:  MIT Media Lab, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

6. The Use of a Blockchain to Foster the Development of Patient-Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs):

This paper suggests the use of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy as a modality to treat Mental Health disorders. This the author suggests is achieved by the use of various applications that allow the patient to record information using SMS or applications. These applications keep track of any emergencies, provides patient coaching and guidance, recording of daily progress and medication adherence. While many patients feel ashamed of their mental state and feel a stigma associated with conditions such as depression and anxiety, the anonymous nature of these applications may make it more likely for them to seek help.

These types of use cases are the first step in implementing blockchain technology as they help identify the system requirements and looks at the interactions between users and systems. In this case, the focus would be on personal health information that is highly sensitive and coming from mobile applications that require direct interaction between the patient and providers, as well as those involved in the care of the patient.

Each scenario that involves a transaction, or data being transferred from the application to those who have “signed” the transaction would be documented so the information flow and usage is understood. In this manner, the appropriate permissions would be granted and provenance could readily be established. Use of the Internet of Things in combination with Blockchain technology for Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs).
Author:  Goldwater JC.
Organization:  National Quality Forum

7. Powering the Physician Patient Relationship with ‘HIE of One’ Blockchain Health IT: 

‘HIE of One’ links patient protected health information (PHI) to Blockchain identities and Blockchain identities to verified credential provider institutions to lower transaction costs and improves security for all participants.

HIE of One, (Health Information Exchange of One) shifts the trusted intermediary role away from the hospital and into the blockchain. The blockchain can also provide the link between physician credentials and patient identity.
Author:  Gropper A.

8. Blockchain: The Chain of Trust and its Potential to Transform Healthcare – Our Point of View:

This paper talks about Potential uses of Blockchain technology in health care including a detailed look at health care pre-authorization payment infrastructure, counterfeit drug prevention and detection and clinical trial results use cases. The paper also highlights what Blockchain is not. Some of the additional use cases as presented in the paper are listed below:

Organization:  IBM Global Business Service Public Sector

References

The content provided in the examples above have been collated from the various submissions to the ONC’s Blockchain Ideation Challenge. You can write to me or connect with me, in case you are interested in receiving the copy of the documents.

Alternatively, you could follow the links here

You can also review the various articles on Blockchain on the HCITExpert Blog.

Blockchain Relevant Articles

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