Blockchain Technologies for Healthcare – Technical Challenges and Potential Applications

Blockchain is a technology of distributed ledger originally applied in the financial world. Bitcoin is one of the most adoptable cryptocurrencies based on Blockchain technique. The success of Bitcoin in technology means Blockchain has the potential for decentralized transaction validation, data provenance, data sharing, and data integration in different fields. Ethereum is a Blockchain-based platform with smart contract functionality inside. Smart contract is similar to coded protocol which enforce the workflow of data sharing. To date, most of academic papers for Blockchain in non-financial domains are still very conceptual and creating skepticism about the applicability of the technology and what it can achieve. At MU, we are experiencing the Ethereum platform to develop informatics tools for applications in health care, such as health information exchange, recruitment for clinical trials, etc. One of our scenarios is that through the Blockchain patients can share their medical data, including EHR, PACS, and mobile device data, with other authorized facilities or institutions, smart contract could access patients’ data from several data providers and send to approved parties without jumping through the hoops. Patients can also change the data sharing setting at their fingertips using smart contracts. However, both data security and integrity are challenging using the Blockchain technology. In this talk, I will introduce the Blockchain concepts, implementation of Blockchain nodes, design of smart contracts for data access simulations, and discuss several project ideas in artificial intelligence and precision medicine.