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July 13, 2016

US Health department wants to know about blockchain

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) wants to get better aquainted with the possibilities that blockchain technology can offer in healthcare and health research. Blockchain applications are known mostly for their use in creating digital currency such as Bitcoin, but it can also be used in for example validation of clinical testing.

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In order to get some more insights into these possibilities, the HHS is soliciting research papers related to blockchain applications. To be more precise, according to a notice published in the Federal Register, HHS is seeking white papers that explore how the technology can be leveraged for healthcare purposes. The submission date is 29th July, with the winners set to be announced late next month.

One stipulation is that papers shouldn’t be longer than 10 pages and that no more than three papers are submitted by any one researcher or group of researchers working together. Next to that  the department wants papers that educate its audience on the technology itself and not just show use cases.

The notice states: ‘The paper should 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 health care delivery needs, as well as provide recommendations for blockchain’s implementation."

Winners will be invited to present their work at a “Blockchain and Healthcare Workshop” to be co-hosted by the department’s Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Though the date was not listed, the notice states that winner presentations will take place near the end of September. The solicitation represents the first time HHS has sought entries related to the technology. In the past, other parts of the US government like the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense have actively looked into possible applications.

Recently Philips Healthcare opened a blockchain R&D lab to find out how this verification and encryption technology can be used in healthcare. The lab combines the knowledge of IT experts, healthcare professionals and blockchain developers.

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