Enterprise blockchain provider Gem is forging new partnerships in the healthcare sector. First announced at the Distributed: Health 2017 conference in Nashville, Tennessee, earlier this week, the blockchain startup is teaming up with European technology service provider Tieto as well as partnering with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“We fundamentally believe that data should not be centralized; it should exist at the edges where it already lives. Gem is partnering with Tieto and the CDC to build fluid systems of bridges and tunnels that connect relevant data at the time it’s needed,” Gem founder and CEO Micah Winkelspecht told Bitcoin Magazine.
The growing interest in blockchain technology does not appear to be slowing down. As just about every industry is researching whether and how blockchains can help their operations, the healthcare sector is no exception. Distributed: Health, the world’s only healthcare-focused blockchain conference, welcomed over 700 attendees to Nashville this week.
Among the interested parties was Tieto, a major technology service provider in northern Europe, which typically works closely with several Scandinavian governments. The company provides software solutions for a range of public sector agencies, in domains like forestry, finance and education, as well as healthcare.
In Nashville, Gem and Tieto announced their new partnership in the exploration of how blockchain technology can benefit the tech giant. Emily Vaughn, head of accounts at Gem, and Maria Kumle, head of new offerings (Lifecare Solutions) at Tieto, presented a keynote address on Tuesday morning outlining the companies’ shared vision for the future of healthcare and how their partnership will build blockchain-based compliance solutions.
“Tieto has a pretty big vision for the future,” Winkelspecht told Bitcoin Magazine after the presentation. “They believe in a shift from a provider-centric data model to a more citizen-centric data model. They think citizens should really be in control of their own data, where companies can leverage and use that data, if the user consents.”
Gem’s main product, GemOS, is a data collaboration platform to be deployed on blockchains like Ethereum and Hyperledger, a software stack to bridge the gaps between these blockchains’ enterprise-level applications. For Tieto, GemOS will be configured to connect different data silos, specifically Finnish blood banks and DNA registers.
“If, say, a life insurer needs access to your health records and that data is stored in 10 different locations, that insurer first needs to know what these locations are. Then it needs to demonstrate to all these locations that it has the rights to access this. And it should be able to pull them all down, to have availability to the data.”
Because this is still a very bureaucratic, slow and expensive process, Gem and Tieto believe they can streamline the localization and authorization of this data. While the different silos will remain siloed — the blood bank records and DNA registers won’t be stored on any blockchain — GemOS should provide the bridge to connect the relevant data where needed.
Prior to the conference, Gem also struck a recent deal with the CDC, the United States federal agency tasked with preventing the spread of disease.
The CDC is particularly interested in finding solutions to better manage population health data and, more specifically, data relevant for disaster response. This type of data is usually fed through several intermediaries, such as different local government bodies. And because this is still very much a manual process, getting the right information to the right departments can take weeks or even longer. This current level of inefficiency is of particular concern in emergency situations where time is of the essence.
On top of further automating their processes, the CDC thinks that blockchain technology may offer additional solutions. It has therefore already put together a 27-person blockchain development team and is also partnering with different blockchain providers, including Microsoft and IBM, in addition to Gem.
“The CDC wants to build a blockchain-based early-detection warning system for population health and other topics that they care about,” Winkelspecht explained. “Once again, we won’t put actual data on the blockchain, but what we’re trying to do is paint a clear, comprehensive picture of all the data that is available, with a validity check, a timestamp and a proof.”
These records should then be instantly available to other relevant parties in the disaster relief efforts, like doctors or pharmacies. Such real-time data-sharing solutions among parties could significantly benefit CDC’s mission, especially when it comes to contagious diseases.
Both the Tieto and CDC projects are still in early development phases. It could take another year before the projects are up and running.