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ONC Announces Winners of the Healthcare Blockchain Challenge

Last month, the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) launched a challenge to explore the potential uses of Blockchain technology in healthcare and health-related research.

While Blockchain is best known for its use in the digital currency Bitcoin, Blockchain technology has tremendous potential to benefit the healthcare industry, in particular to improve data privacy, security, and interoperability.

Blockchain certainly shows great potential and is attracting considerable investment. In 2014, $299 million was invested in Blockchain by VC-backed companies and that figure rose to $474 million in 2015.

Critics of Blockchain have expressed concern about the level of computing power needed and the cost of implementing Blockchain technology, claiming the use of the technology would therefore be extremely limited in healthcare. However, even though there are potential stumbling blocks, there was no shortage of potential applications submitted to the ONC.

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The ONC received more than 70 whitepapers from research institutes, universities, schools, businesses, and individuals. The whitepapers detail potential uses of Blockchain to better protect, manage, and exchange electronic protected health information.

This week, the winners of the contest have been announced. 15 winning whitepapers have been selected based on a number of different criteria, including the potential of the solution to support existing health information objectives, the ability to inform and foster transformative change, creativity, and market viability.

The whitepapers detailed highly varied uses of Blockchain Technology. Each of the winning submissions detailed a different use of Blockchain. Some of the white papers demonstrated how it was possible to improve very specific healthcare processes, while others were far more comprehensive and could potentially improve all health information systems.

The winning whitepapers were submitted by the following organizations:

  • Accenture LLP
  • Blockchain Futures Lab – Institute for the Future
  • Deloitte Consulting LLP
  • Health System Department of Biomedical Informatics, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA Division of Health Services Research & Development, and VA San Diego Healthcare System.
  • IBM Global Business Service Public Sector
  • Mayo Clinic
  • MIT Media Lab / Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • National Quality Forum
  • Project PharmOrchard of MIT’s Experimental Learning

The following unaffiliated individuals also submitted winning whitepapers:

Kyle Culver, Adrian Gropper MD,  Drew Ivan,  Laurie Linn and Martha Koo MD, Ramkrishna Prakash, and King Yip.

The recently appointed National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Dr. Vindell Washington said “We are thrilled by the incredible amount of interest in this challenge,” Washington went on to say, “While many know about Blockchain technology’s uses for digital currency purposes, the challenge submissions show its exciting potential for new, innovative uses in health care.”

The winners of the contest will get the opportunity to present their white papers at a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)/ONC Blockchain & Healthcare Workshop. The workshop is scheduled to take place at NIST HQ in Gaithersburg, MD on September 26 and 27. A prize of between $1,500 and $5,000 will also be awarded to the winners of the contest.

The winning whitepapers can be viewed on this link.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.