HITInfrastructure

Security News

Healthcare Blockchain Focus of New IEEE Standards Association

IEEE's latest Standards Organization focuses on standardizing healthcare blockchain and securing digital identities.

Healthcare blockchain is the focus of new IEEE Standards Organization

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- IEEE announced the launch of its latest IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) Industry Connections (IC) program: Digital Inclusion through Trust and Agency, which focuses on blockchain technology.

The program will bring together subject matter experts across all major industries to create standards that encompass ethical considerations around consumer and patient data. The program will include input from technology innovators, policy and legal experts, and academic researchers.

“Identity is a consideration in every business and social transaction,” Program Co-Chair Greg Adamson explained in a statement. “Blockchain technology could be the catalyst to making universal and dignity respecting digital identification systems a reality with its unique ability to retain identities in a secure and immutable manner.”

IEEE invites all representatives of organizations with the following goals:

  • Engaging underserved populations so that their voices and needs are included
  • Safeguarding personal agency and dignity to protect the most vulnerable
  • Identifying oneself on the internet without sacrificing the right to privacy or the right to be forgotten
  • Encouraging distributed ledger technology standards that facilitate financial inclusion and other decentralized data sharing capabilities

“The Digital Inclusion through Trust and Agency initiative is crucial to expanding cross-domain interaction that can advance technology and lead to new, innovative services and business models, and provide full confidence that personal data and user identity are safe and secure,” Program Co-Chair Oleg Logvinov, said in a statement.

“In today’s data driven world, with an ever-growing number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices collecting data associated with our lives, it is imperative that we develop technical and data standards that protect individuals’ data privacy and ownership of data.”

The Digital Inclusion through Trust and Agency program is significant to healthcare because it drives the initiative to standardize the way clinical data is protected as new technologies are introduced into health IT infrastructure.

The program centers mostly on the emergence of blockchain technology. In particular, it focuses on how users are held accountable by all participants in the blockchain while still maintaining secure information and necessary privacy.

Blockchain is the exchange of information between nodes (e.g., users, organizations) via a shared database without the regulation of a third party controlling the data through a single silo. This leads to the creation of a trusted history of transactions between organizations sharing data.

Each transaction between organizations consists of a block that holds the data from the current transaction, along with a hash linking back to the previous transaction, thus creating a chain. Every transaction is documented and users cannot go back and alter past data.

Decentralizing data sharing among healthcare organizations will prevent many data breaches because the responsible party can instantly be identified and verified through the blockchain’s distributed ledger.

Blockchain has tremendous potential in healthcare but the technology is not standardized. Blockchain needs to adhere to regulatory demands such as HIPAA. All vendors, organizations, and patients must handle data through a standardized set of regulations for widespread healthcare adoption to be possible.

Earlier this year, IBM Watson Health and the FDA signed a collaborative research agreement to apply blockchain technology to define secure, efficient, and scalable health data exchange.

The collaboration will observe blockchain usage for EHR and clinical data to identify future uses for the technology in a healthcare setting.

IBM and the FDA will study new ways healthcare organizations can leverage large volumes of diverse data produced and collected. IBM suggested that a secure owner-mediated data sharing ecosystem could potentially assist in new discoveries and improved public health. The results of the research will be released later this year.

Blockchain implementation is becoming a reality for future health IT infrastructures, but healthcare organizations cannot fully embrace the advantages of it without standardization.