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Australian Securities Exchange says blockchain ideal for health records

Blockchain distributed ledger technology would be an ideal method for storing health records, the head of operations at the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) has said.17 Nov 2016

Blockchain is best known for underpinning trading involving the digital currency bitcoin, but it has many other potential uses. Broadly it is a shared digital ledger for recording information, such as the transfer of assets between two or more parties.

Tim Hogden told the GovInnovate conference in Canberra, Australia that health records are currently created by many different bodies, and saved and stored "erratically", ZDNet reported.

Creating an immutable record using blockchain would be preferable, he said, and the system would ensure that only authorised users were allowed to see the data.

"For things as simple as a device, a hip replacement, a cochlear implant: if you're doing a product recall on that stuff, how do you know where and who is using those devices in that point in time?" he asked.

"All this information is stored over various databases and they're not all secure and the blockchain or a ledger such as this is one way of capturing that and providing instant identification of those users," Hogben said.

ASX is not involved in healthcare itself, but has been working on its own blockchain system that may replace its existing Clearing House Electronic Subregister System (CHESS).

The exchange has taken a different approach to that of bitcoin platforms, Hogben said, in that the transparency vital to virtual currencies would not be suitable in this instance.

Banks would not want other bodies to be able to see their trading behaviour and activity, Hogben said.

"That type of information is very sensitive and those parties certainly wouldn't want that to be transparent to others in that network or environment … We took components of the ledger, and we effectively created an architecture in which the private data isn't actually stored on the ledger itself, [but] in a different data store which is only available to the participant or the owner of that data," he said.

Fintech expert Luke Scanlon of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com said: "The health sector provides a good example of the need for technology to be used in a way that can help people keep information accurate, secure and readily accessible."

"As an immutable central point that every relevant party can have immediate access to, view and rely upon, a distributed ledger would not need to be held by a trusted third party. It could provide, for example, to those who have permission to access it, visibility of all aspects of a person's health. In a life-threating situation, the benefits of having such a system seem very compelling," he said.

"The cost efficiencies to be gained from a centralised view of information and the consequential removal of the need to reconcile data held in separate databases by various participants in the health sector further highlights the clear potential for technology of this type to be used in this context," Scanlon said. 

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