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Health care data could be the next frontier for blockchain technology

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OSF HealthCare

You may have heard about blockchain technology in the context of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin.

Dr. John Vozenilek, vice president and chief medical officer of OSF Innovation and Digital Health, says the blockchain platform may also have a transformative use in health care data.

"The use of blockchain, for our purposes, really revolves around the privacy and being able to understand how data is being used," Vozenilek said. "Who's sharing in the data? How is the data being leveraged by researchers or by other companies to understand interesting things; things that we hope progress patient care outcomes, progress population health? Information, and its transition from one party to another."

Vozenilek said there's value in placing patient data (released with their permission) in a secure, trusted space, with strict rules governing how the data is used and who receives access.

"What happens is, we have the ability for even very strong competitors, to collaborate in data sharing, and open up a little portal under strict rules, that they can answer questions that are meaningful in health care," he said.

Vozenilek said he believes blockchain would actually give more control over personal medical data than they currently have - while also making data more readily available for researchers.

"More of the agency about how data is shared is given to the patient so that they hold the key to unlock the data, and its use that becomes transparent to the patient," he said. "And they may also receive some, not just information, but maybe some rewards when the data is leveraged."

Vozenilek said OSF HealthCare is currently exploring blockchain opportunities with some of their higher education partners, namely the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois State University, and Bradley University.

"Over time, OSF will grow in its understanding, propose a number of novel use cases, and, boy, we just anticipate a lot of announcements in short order," he said.

OSF HealthCare is hosting an open blockchain webinar at 11 a.m. Thursday via LinkedIn. A blockchain symposium is set for April 8.

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