U.S. Department of Health Calls for Blockchain Research

By
Joseph Bradley
July 8, 2016

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) just put out a call for White Papers that address the utilization of blockchain in healthcare. Let’s see what happens.

A Call For Papers

HHS recently offered a press release [PDF] that asked for registrants to register and respond to the prompt, “Blockchain and Its Emerging Role in Healthcare and Health-related Research.” Within the release HHS defines blockchain technology and then suggests how it may be applicable to the field of health care.

Entrants

In order to enter the competition the author(s) must either be U.S. citizens or operate businesses that officially registered in the United States. Federal funds cannot be used to produce the paper, and federal employees are barred from entering.

Selection of Winners

The press release calls for papers to be submitted by July 29th 2016. Evaluation of the papers begins on August 1st and ends on the 16th. Winners will be notified on August 17th. The winning group will be flown to DC and have the opportunity to present their paper to the HHS and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

How Is This Seemingly Boring Competition Newsworthy?

A good rule of thumb when assessing the adoption of technology is the following: If the federal government hops on board, you are almost 99% of the way to being boringly legitimate. Aside from DARPA  and a handful of other top secret development projects, government’s do no innovate. In the U.S. the federal government still spends billions of dollars to keep up an ancient computer infrastructure. Another great rule of thumb is that if tech is to see it’s true upside potential officials must understand how to interact with it from the legislative perspective (this typically equates to regulations). When this goes well we see the rise of groups like Theranos (if they would have only kept up there end of the bargain). And when this interaction does not go well we see situations like Uber and Lyft vacating Austin, Texas. The latter example is good for no one.

So the relevance of a call for White Papers is that it serves as an official acknowledgement of the technology. In essence it reads, “We have no idea what this tech is, but it sounds promising. Please give us your ideas for free so that we can provide these great ideas to politicians that can use them as political ammo in the next election cycle.” And honestly, so what if that is how the process works? The goal is adoption.

Simply, if thought leaders in blockchain embrace opportunities like this they will shape the adoption and subsequent regulations. We need that to happen to for this technology to reach its full potential.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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