ONC, NIST Announce Innovation Challenge for Using Blockchain in Health IT

July 7, 2016
ONC and the National Institute of Standards and Technology announced an ideation challenge soliciting white papers on the topic of blockchain technology and the potential use for healthcare.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology announced an ideation challenge soliciting white papers on the topic of blockchain technology and the potential use for healthcare.

Blockchain is a data structure that can be timed-stamped and signed using a private key to prevent tampering. There are generally three types of blockchain: public, private and consortium.

According to an announcement from ONC, potential uses include digitally sign information, computable enforcement of policies and contracts (smart contracts), management of Internet of Things devices, distributed encrypted storage and distributed trust.

“Proponents of blockchain suggest that it could be used to address concerns regarding the privacy, security and the scalability of health records. Critics ascertain that it would take enormous processing power and specialized equipment that far exceeds the benefits. Although most would acknowledge blockchain’s potential it is still evolving and maturing, especially with respect to its applicability to the health care,” ONC stated in the announcement.

The ideation challenge solicits white papers on the topic of blockchain technology and the potential for its use in health IT as well as healthcare–related research data. The submission period began June 20 and ends July 29, and evaluations will take place in August with a winner announced Aug. 20. Winners will present their submission at an upcoming industry-wide workshop co-hosted by ONC and NIST.

Through the challenge, ONC and NIST are looking for white paper submissions to discuss the cryptography and underlying fundamentals of blockchain technology, examine how the use of blockchain can advance industry interoperability needs expressed in the Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap, patient centered outcomes research (PCOR), precision medicine and other healthcare delivery needs, as well as provide recommendations for blockchain’s implementation.

According to the ONC announcement, the judging panel will rate each submission based upon the effectiveness of the overall concept to help foster transformative change in the health IT culture, the viability of the proposed recommendations, the innovativeness of the approach, and its potential for achieving the objectives of ONC.

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