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ONC Kicks Off Blockchain Whitepaper Contest

Posted on July 11, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Hold onto your hats, folks. The ONC has taken an official interest in blockchain technology, a move which suggests that it’s becoming a more mainstream technology in healthcare.

As you may know, blockchain is the backbone for the somewhat shadowy world of bitcoin, a “cryptocurrency” whose users can’t be traced. (For some of you, your first introduction to cryptocurrency may have been when a Hollywood, CA hospitals was forced to pay off ransomware demands with $17K in bitcoins.)

But despite its use by criminals, blockchain still has great potential for creating breakthroughs for legitimate businesses, notably banking and healthcare. Look at dispassionately, a blockchain is just a distributed database, one which maintains a continuously growing list with data records hardened against tampering and revision.

Right now, the most common use the blockchain is to serve as a public ledger of bitcoin transactions. But the concept is bubbling up in the healthcare world, with some even suggesting that blockchain should be used to tackle health data security problems.

And now, the ONC has shown interest in this technology, soliciting white papers that offer thoughtful take on how blockchain can help meet important healthcare industry objectives.

The whitepaper, which may not be no longer than 10 pages, must be submitted by July 29. (Want to participate, but don’t have time to write the paper yourself? Click here.Papers must discuss the cryptography and underlying fundamentals of blockchain technology, explain how the use of blockchain can meet industry interoperability needs, patient centered outcomes research, precision medicine and other healthcare delivery needs, as well as offering recommendations for blockchain’s implementation.

The ONC will choose eight winning papers from among the submissions. Winning authors will have an opportunity to present the paper at a Blockchain & Healthcare Workshop held at NIST headquarters in Gaithersburg, MD on September 26th and 27th.

In hosting this contest, ONC is lending blockchain approaches in healthcare a level of credibility they might not have had in the past. But there’s already a lot of discussion going on about blockchain applications for health IT.

So what are people talking about where blockchain IT is concerned? In one LinkedIn piece, consultant Peter Nichol argues that blockchain can address concerns around scalability and privacy electronic medical records. He also suggests that blockchain technology can provide patients with more sophisticated privacy control of their personal health information, for example, providers can enhance health data security by letting patients combine their own blockchain signature with a hospital’s signature.

But obviously, ONC leaders think there’s a lot more that can be done here. And I’m pretty confident that they’re right. While I’m no security or cryptocurrency expert, I know that when a technology has been kicked around for several years, and used for a sensitive function like financial exchange without racking up any major failures, it’s got to be pretty solid. I’m eager to see what people come up with!

Innovation at SXSW V2V

Posted on August 12, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This week I have the opportunity to attend the first extension of SXSW interactive outside of Austin. The event is called SXSW V2V and is happening in Las Vegas (yes, I have an obvious Vegas bias). Last night was the opening event and I was amazed at the depth of the interaction that occurred at the opening event. As I compare it to similar opening events at HIMSS it’s hard to even compare. At the HIMSS event it’s a struggle to engage people at the event. I usually do, because that’s who I am, but I was amazed how many people were willing and interested in engaging at SXSW V2V.

In one evening I had a chance to interact with a broad spectrum of people across the tech startup ecosystem. It was fascinating to see what various entrepreneurs are doing in 3D rendering, travel, bitcoin, and many other areas. I even enjoyed some time with Kyle Samani from Pristine. Kyle had his Google Glasses on and basically was able to start a conversation with anyone in the hall. I guess Google Glasses are a good investment if for nothing other than meeting new people at conferences.

I’m sure that many wonder what value I’ll get out of attending a tech event like SXSW V2V (Although, I do have a blog about Vegas Startup companies). No doubt there are very few people at the event working in healthcare specifically. Besides Kyle I also ran into my congressman who was an MD in a past life. So I did have a conversation with him about meaningful use (that post later). However, the lack of healthcare knowledge is exactly why I enjoy attending an event like this. There’s real value in getting outside of our healthcare box and seeing how we can apply technology or experiences from other industries to healthcare.

Take for example bitcoin. I expect that many in healthcare will wonder how a virtual currency will matter to healthcare. The obvious use is when people want to start paying your clinic in bitcoin. The less obvious application is using the processing power that “mines bitcoin” to solve some of medicine’s hardest problems. There are a lot of major healthcare problems that need a whole lot of computing power. The human genome was just the start. Bitcoin could be one way to access computing power well beyond the most powerful super computers in the world.

This is just a simple example of the power of learning things beyond the healthcare industry. I’m excited to see what other things I’ll learn over the next few days of the conference. Not that I don’t enjoy deep discussions about meaningful use and EHR certification. I love those too, but those deep discussions are often informed by learning about industries and technologies that aren’t in healthcare.