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Hyperledger Adds First Health IT Member to Blockchain Research

Hyperledger adds Change Healthcare to research project to create standardized healthcare blockchain technology.

Hyperledger adds healthcare blockchain to its research.

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Hyperledger announced the first health IT company to join its collaborative blockchain project. Change Healthcare joined as a Premier Member and will work with other Hyperledger project members to help develop healthcare blockchain technology.

The 140-member group includes organizations across major industries such as healthcare, finance, Internet of Things (IoT), and aeronautics.

Blockchain is the exchange of information between nodes (e.g., users, organizations) via a shared database. There is no regulation of a third party controlling the data through a single silo, leading 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.

The Hyperledger project goal is to create a standardized distributed ledger technology for organizations to build and run applications, platforms, and hardware that meet specific individual needs, while staying compatible with other organizations.

Hyperledger is working to create an open source healthcare blockchain standard for use among entities sharing clinical data within and outside their own organization.

"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.”

“I look forward to collaborating with Hyperledger members to help develop an open, distributed ledger technology that makes secure and safe financial interoperability work better in healthcare and beyond."

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.

A recent Tractica report explained that despite the obvious benefits of blockchain, the lack of standardization makes it difficult for healthcare organizations to justify its use.

“In the last year alone, over a hundred financial institutions, more than two dozen governments, and countless corporations and venture capitalists have invested more than $1 billion into blockchain startups,” report authors explained. “But through the fog of hype lies the sobering reality that this is a market of extreme nascence and fragmentation; a notable void of in-production or at-scale implementations; and a lack of regulatory, legal, governance, collaborative, economic, digital, and even cultural precedent.”

Hyperledger is not the first group to collaborate on a standardized distributed ledger technology. IBM is currently working with the FDA on blockchain standardization. Another group including Hashed Health, Cisco, and Foxconn to discuss blockchain deployment standards and interoperability.

First, IBM and the FDA are currently collaborating to find the best way to securely and efficiently implement blockchain in a healthcare setting.

IBM and the FDA will evaluate the use of blockchain technology in the exchange of owner-mediated data from sources including EHRs, clinical trials, genomic data, and health data collected from mobile devices (i.e. wearables and IoT devices).

The collaboration will study new ways healthcare organizations can leverage large volumes of diverse data that is produced and collected. IBM suggests that a secure owner-mediated data sharing ecosystem could potentially assist in new discoveries and improved public health.

Additionally, Hashed Health, Cisco, and Foxconn discussed a collaborative effort to build a shared blockchain-based IoT protocol to standardize the industry.

The group agreed on the cornerstone elements that need to be present in all blockchain deployments to encourage smooth integration and interoperability between blockchain systems. Vendors concurred that security, trust, identity, registration, and verification need to be features in all blockchain systems.

The group believes that organizations are missing a blockchain solution that provides secure and tamper-proof guarantees for all digital records and transactions that reflects how traditional paper filesharing operates.

While each blockchain collaboration is different, they all support the notion that blockchain presents a better, more accountable way to exchange information. Once blockchain is standardized, healthcare organizations can start implementing it in their health IT infrastructure.