Xerox Files Patents For Blockchain-Based Tech With Healthcare Applications

Posted on September 5, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

According to a site focused on blockchain technology, Xerox has filed patents for technology using blockchain to securely revise electronic documents. The patent application was filed in February of last year, but the move became news this month when it was reported by Coin Telegraph.

According to the site, the patent filings propose a network of nodes that can create and update documents and share data using blockchain technology. The system can be used by regional hospital organizations to exchange electronic health records, Xerox says in its application.

In a more-recent blog post, Xerox India’s director of global document outsourcing, Ritesh Gandotra, asserts that the use of blockchain can offer unique benefits.

“Historically, EHRs were never really designed to manage multi-institutional and lifetime medical records,” he writes. “…Adopting the blockchain structure to EHRs will help manage authentication, confidentiality, accountability and data sharing while allowing medical researchers to access insights into medical treatment.”

Xerox is hardly the first organization to take an interest in blockchain’s potential as a backbone for health data management. Not only that, but leaders in the industry are developing what look like practical models for using blockchain in this manner.

For example, my colleague John Lynn recently shared an infographic outlining a use case for blockchain in healthcare. You’ll probably learn more by clicking through and looking at the infographic yourself, but in summary, the model outlines a process in which:

  • Health organizations direct administrative information to the blockchain via APIs and track clinical data in parallel using existing health IT
  • The blockchain stores each transaction with a unique identifier
  • When they need information, healthcare organizations query the blockchain
  • Patients share their identity with healthcare organizations, using a private key that links their identity to blockchain data

Not only that, high-profile industry thinkers like John Halamka, MD, CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, have developed their own models for the use of blockchain in healthcare. (In a Harvard Business Review article, Dr. Halamka describes a system for managing EHRs using blockchain which he and his co-authors call “MedRec.”)

What’s striking here is that while Xerox may have filed some patent applications, it probably doesn’t know anything we don’t. The applications it describes for blockchain in healthcare document management certainly sound fine, and may be the basis for something great in the future.

If you look around the web, however, you’ll see that virtually anyone with an interest in health IT is out there making predictions about its applications for healthcare. What will really be interesting is when we get beyond ideas — as intriguing as they can be — and pilot some real, concrete technology.

In the meantime, let the blockchain games continue. Obviously, Xerox won’t be the last company angling for a piece of this market. There’s little doubt it will come to something eventually, and the rewards will be great for the company that helps to shape its future.