ONC blockchain challenge and the birth of the cryptocitizen for healthcare


Two innovators redefine health introducing co-creation of trust for healthcare.

Who spends the time to write a 10-page proposal paper that is going to a government agency? Everyone knows that even if they are read nothing will happen, right? We as a society have to believe in something, and if we are going to invest time, improving the health of a nation is a noble first step.

The ONC and NIST partnership

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)in partnership with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), launched a request for papers called the ONC Blockchain Challenge. The ONC is looking to explore the “use of blockchain in Health IT and Health-released Research.” The submission period for papers closed on August 8, 2016. The winners will be privately notified on August 22, 2016 and the official public announcement will be issued on August 29, 2016.

ONC and NIST partnered on this initiative, but why? Understanding, both the ONC and NIST organizational mission can help justify the logical alignment to jointly support the ONC Blockchain Challenge. The ONC is the primary federal entity coordinating nationwide efforts to implement and use the most advanced health information technology and the electronic exchange of health information. ONC is responsible for national healthcare interoperability. NIST is a measurement standards laboratory and a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce. Its mission is to promote innovation and industrial competitiveness. Many leaders in information technology think of NIST with 800-53 or the NIST Special Publication 800-53, a standards document that recommends security controls for federal information systems and organizations. However, the mission of NIST extends further. NIST is organized into laboratory programs that include Nanoscale Science and Technology, Engineering, Information Technology, Neutron Research, Material Measurement, and Physical Measurement. ONC aligning with NIST is an interesting partnership and signals to industry that security and policy are coupled. Together, these two organizations have the potential to create a national standard for healthcare interoperability that is secure.

Importance of consensus

One of the many papers submitted for the ONC Blockchain Challenge was a paper authored by Peter Nichol and Jeff Brandt. Peter Nichol is an expert in digital, innovation, and healthcare. Jeff Brandt is an expert in mobility, security, and healthcare. Together they co-authored a paper for the ONC Blockchain Challenge titled, Co-Creation of Trust for Healthcare: The Cryptocitizen Framework for Interoperability with Blockchain.

The paper explains in section six, the blockchain trust framework for healthcare by first adding clarify the theory behind consensus and cryptocitizens.

“To conceptualize the different types of trust ecosystems, we draw on two theoretical foundations: consensus and cryptocitizen. Discovered by the Portuguese in 1527 and lying about nine degrees north of the equator the 39 square mile island of Yap, is the most western of the Caroline Islands part of the Federated States of Micronesia located in the Pacific Ocean. William Henry Furness visited the island in 1903 and wrote about the island’s stone money in his book titled, The Island of Stone Money UAP of The Carolines, published in 1910. The Yapese did not use the money; their medium of exchange was called fei. These large ‘coins’ were stone wheels ranging from one foot to twelve feet, with a hole in the center, where a pole could be inserted for transportation. The rai stones could weigh up to 8,800 lbs. As a result, it was not always practical to transfer the stone physically from the seller to the buyer for payment. Therefore, the community would communicate at the council square in the center of the village where all the chiefs met when discussing the affairs of the tribe. Here it would be agreed that a transfer was being made from family A to family B. Additionally, because of the weight of the rai stones, typically eight strong men were needed to move the stones, in a sense, building community consensus for the ownership transfer.”

The paper elaborates on the value of consensus and the how ownership is administrated in a healthcare setting.

The cryptocitizen

The co-authors define the term cryptocitizen and the impact on interoperability by stating that,

the “cryptocitizen [is] a concept of societal shared trust, where citizens have a new relationship with authority reducing government involvement in decentralization – availability of government services versus citizens being directly governed.”

The core framework of interoperability revolves around the cryptocitizen and the idea of self- sovereignty.  The authors explain,

“Self-ownership (or sovereignty of the individual, individual sovereignty or individual autonomy) is the concept of property in one’s own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to have bodily integrity, and be the exclusive controller of her or his own body and life. Tilting this definition, we can apply self-ownership to healthcare and ownership of patient information…self-sovereign identity is guided by the principle that every patient is the source and therefore owner of their own identity.”

How does this relate to interoperability? If a provider can’t identify a patient how are the patient’s medical records accessed? How does medical and treatment information flow between facilities? Today, information does not pass seamlessly between healthcare entities. The patient has to request their medical information and often the transfer of information is inefficient and communicated by fax, email, or through the mailing of hard copies.

The paper presents the argument that self- sovereignty with distributed consensus is an enabler to empower patients to take back control of their medical identities.

“The pinnacle of medical records’ interoperability is patient controlled medical records. With blockchain technologies patients can own and control their identity, access their data, and conditionally authorize the sharing of medical records with providers.”

The ONC and NIST Blockchain Challenge has the potential to open the mind of society, and introduce the possibility that blockchain frameworks will solve our patient identity problem – achieving national healthcare interoperability.

Download the FULL paper Here: Co-Creation of Trust for Healthcare: The Cryptocitizen Framework for Interoperability with Blockchain

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Peter is a healthcare business and technology executive, recognized for Digital Innovation by CIO 100, MIT Sloan, Computerworld, and the Project Management Institute. As Managing Director at OROCA Innovations, Peter leads the CXO advisory services practice driving digital strategies.

Peter was honored as an MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award Finalist in 2015 and is a regular contributor to CIO.com on innovation. As Head of Information Technology, Peter was responsible for Connecticut’s Health Insurance Exchange’s (HIX) industry-leading digital platform transforming consumerism and retail oriented services for the health insurance industry. Peter championed the Connecticut marketplace digital implementation with a transformational cloud-based SaaS platform and mobile application recognized as a 2014 PMI Project of the Year Award finalist, CIO 100, and awards for best digital services, API, and platform. He also received a lifetime achievement award for leadership and digital transformation, honored as a 2016 Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leader.

Peter has a B.S. in C.I.S from Bentley University and an MBA from Quinnipiac University, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude. He earned his PMP® in 2001 and is a certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP) and Certified Scrum Master. As a Commercial Rated Aviation Pilot and Master Scuba Diver, Peter understands first hand, how to anticipate change and lead boldly.