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Healthcare Blockchain Frameworks Emerge as Demand Rises

Healthcare blockchain frameworks are emerging as the technology continues to gain interest from the healthcare sector.

Healthcare blockchain frameworks support future health IT implementation.

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Microsoft announced the release of its Coco Framework to reduce the complexity of operational and security needs present in many healthcare blockchain implementations.

The framework aims to provide organizations with a steady guide on how to build and deploy a blockchain network as IT infrastructures continue to digitally transform.

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. It leads to the creation of a trusted history of transactions between organizations sharing data.

Each transaction between organizations consists of a block, which 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.

Blockchain is emerging as a secure way to share clinical data and PHI because it eliminates the need for organizations to trust the entities with which they are exchanging information. However, the technology currently lacks the standardization necessary for widescale healthcare deployment.

"Blockchain is a transformational technology with the ability to significantly reduce the friction of doing business," Microsoft CTO of Azure Mark Russinovich said in a statement. "Microsoft is committed to bringing blockchain to the enterprise.

“We have listened to the needs of our customers and the blockchain community and are bringing foundational functionality with the Coco Framework,” Russinovich continued. “Through an innovative combination of advanced algorithms and trusted execution environments (TEEs), like Intel's Software Guard Extensions (SGX) or Windows Virtual Secure Mode (VSM), we believe this takes the next step toward making blockchain ready for business."

The benefits of the Coco Framework include:

  • Transaction speeds of more than 1,600 transactions per second.
  • Easily managed data confidentiality without sacrificing performance.
  • A comprehensive, distributed governance model for blockchain networks that establishes a network constitution and allows members to vote on all terms and conditions governing the consortium and the blockchain software system.

The Coco Framework will be compatible with disparate ledger protocols and can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud. It can also leverage any operating system and hypervisors that support a compatible TEE.

Healthcare blockchain is gaining more interest as several organizations are releasing frameworks that can potentially be used in a healthcare setting.

Last month, Hyperledger made a similar announcement revealing the availability of its Hyperledger Fabric 1.0 blockchain framework. The open source framework is hosted by The Linux Foundation to be used in developing blockchain solutions and applications across all major industries, including healthcare.

Creating a blockchain framework is not easy and the Hyperledger project worked with many collaborators to build a framework that could be widely adopted.

Blockchain is being seriously considered as a future healthcare technology. However entities need to be committed to researching and developing blockchain technology that meets healthcare standards.

"Blockchain is a promising and exciting new technology for secure online transactions," Change Healthcare CTO Aaron Symanski said in a statement. "But it's crucial that healthcare leaders step up to champion innovation to help take blockchain from its early implementations to tomorrow's healthcare IT solutions.”

There needs to be an established framework in place that can handle both internal and external information exchanges for blockchain to succeed in a healthcare setting. Blockchain presents a better and more accountable way to exchange information, which is one of the major concerns plaguing healthcare organizations today.

Standardizing blockchain with a consistent framework for clinical data exchange cloud help organizations solve the interoperability issues that come from exchanging information and provide a more secure way to track and share data.