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Best blockchain API

Blockchain Algorithm / September 7, 2017

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The Office of the National Coordinator might not always get what it wants when it comes to industry cooperation, but ONC officials have been pleasantly surprised by the positive response to its informational blockchain challenge.

The agency found its inbox flooded with 70 entries after offering a cash prize for academic papers that best capture the potential uses of blockchain technology for electronic health record management, data security, interoperability, and other critical big data tasks.

Respondents from a number of high-profile organizations, including MIT, the Mayo Clinic, Deloitte, IBM, and the National Quality Forum volunteered their expertise in this emerging field of information management, and the ONC chose fifteen entries to share in thousands of dollars of prize money.

“We are thrilled by the incredible amount of interest in this challenge, ” said National Coordinator Vindell Washington, MD, MHCM. “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.”

Blockchain, a methodology for conducting transactions that relies on a decentralized approach to authorization and edits, is finding its way from its origins in the virtual Bitcoin ecosystem to more traditional industries, such as mainstream finance, manufacturing, and healthcare.

The inherently sensitive nature of health data, along with the perennial challenges of interoperability, patient record matching, and health information exchange, have created opportunities for a blockchain approach, argue the winners of the challenge.

Their responses to the ONC’s request for information highlight a number of critical problems ripe for the solving, spanning many of the most difficult conundrums of the big data era.

How do these experts think that blockchain could change healthcare for the better, and how could the industry successfully adopt this innovative method of exchanging and securing big data?

Creating a trusted environment for decision-making

The growing focus on care coordination and EHR access across the care continuum has raised questions about how to ensure that multiple providers can view, edit, and share patient data while still maintaining an authoritative and up-to-date record of diagnoses, medications, and services rendered.

Blockchain’s ability to use time stamping to authenticate changes to a dataset, even if more than one user has permission to edit a document, is ideal for managing EHR data, says Beth Israel Deaconess CIO Dr. John Halamka and colleagues from the MIT Media Lab in one of the prize-winning papers.