The US Department of Health and Human Services has announced a blockchain challenge for projects related to possible applications of the technology in healthcare.

According to an official statement, the challenge is entitled “Blockchain and Its Emerging Role in Healthcare and Health-related Research”. Applications are received until 29 July, the winners to be announced on 20 August.

“The paper should discuss the cryptography and underlying fundamentals of blockchain technology, examine how the use of blockchain can advance industry interoperability needs expressed in the Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap, patient centered outcomes research (PCOR), precision medicine, and other health care delivery needs, as well as provide recommendations for blockchain’s implementation.”

The winners will be invited to an industry-scale workshop co-hosted with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) which is to take place on 26-27 September in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The Health and Human Services Department will not award any monetary prize but suggests that the company that signs a contract for realisation of the winning solution may offer funding to the researcher.

The announcement contains arguments both “for” and “against” blockchain. The proponents of the technology believe that the distributed ledger could be used for such needs of the medical care system as the protection of patients’ personal data, as well as security and medical notes verification. The critics say that the introduction of blockchain would cost immense money needed to provide all the necessary computing power and hardware, which is likely to reduce the profits of its implementation.

The white paper can be prepared by an individual researcher or a scientific team. The only limitation is that the application form and the description should not exceed 10 pages, every researcher can take part in no more than three applications.

Elena Platonova, Maria Rudina