The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) recently published a research paper on the applicability of Blockchain technology in securing and recording medical record components.

Companies within the healthcare industry often operate multiple databases and services to secure their storage of protected health information (PHI), which refers to any medical records that can be utilized to identify an individual. Sensitive personal information and medical records of patients are considered as PHI, under US law.

Numerous hacking and phishing attacks

Each year, a large number of healthcare companies are exploited by hackers and security breaches. Massive databases of stolen data of patients and PHI are usually sold on the dark web after the initial hack.

With sophisticated hacking attacks such as ransomware, phishing attacks and security breaches on the rise, healthcare executives are focusing on emerging technologies such as the Blockchain to secure client information.

Currently, the ONC is actively looking into 15 proposals submitted in a competition sponsored by the US government. Some of the proposals included a peer to peer network for health data analysis with increased levels of privacy, improving interoperability for information exchange, patient tracking and identity assurance and validation, improving healthcare claims processing and decentralized record management system for electronic health records.

According to a report, authors of the 15 hand picked proposals by the ONC received a grant in the range of $1,500 to $5,000.

In a statement, Vindell Washington, national coordinator for health IT, said:

“We are thrilled by the incredible amount of interest in this challenge. 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.”

Security in sharing electronic health data

The ONC plans to evaluate some of the projects on the shortlist of 15 proposals and track their progress closely. By utilizing the immutable Blockchain, the ONC hopes to create a base platform in which healthcare companies can security store data of patients and access updated information in real-time, with increased transparency.

More importantly, Blockchain technology can processes transactions with a local token amongst potential intermediaries and third service providers of healthcare companies.

In a research paper entitled “Blockchain For Health Data and Its Potential Use in Health IT and Health Care Related Research” authored by Laure Linn, ONC stated:

“Blockchain technology has the potential to address the interoperability challenges currently present in health IT systems and to be the technical standard that enables individuals, health care providers, health care entities and medical researchers to securely share electronic health data.”

In the near future, the ONC plans to introduce a Blockchain-based infrastructure which healthcare companies in the US can leverage to create their unique private systems.