On November 30th, 2016, the state of Illinois announced the launch of the Illinois Blockchain Initiative, founded for the purpose of exploring the application of blockchain technology to key government data-handling processes. One of the most promising developments of the initiative since its launch is its recent partnership with healthcare technology innovation consortium Hashed Health. The initial phase of the partnership will involve a pilot program aimed at improving the medical license credentialing process in Illinois through the use of blockchain and distributed ledger technology.
The Illinois Blockchain Initiative
Ever since its launch last November, the Illinois Blockchain Initiative has been active on a number of fronts. Prior to its partnership with Hashed Health in August, perhaps the initiative’s most significant move has been to clarify state law governing cryptocurrency. On June 13th, the initiative announced new rules governing the use of cryptocurrency among individuals and organizations operating in Illinois. According to their official statement, given that cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are not issued by recognized financial institutions they do not meet the definition of legal tender found in the Illinois’ Transmitters of Money Act (TOMA). Nonetheless, cryptocurrencies still contribute to net worth as they can be exchanged for legal tender. Businesses in Illinois facilitating the exchange are therefore subject to TOMA regulations and will require a TOMA license. Furthermore, the cryptocurrency owned by cryptocurrency companies will be considered a “permissible investment.”
Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Hashed Health is a consortium of healthcare organizations largely devoted to spreading blockchain-based innovation throughout the healthcare sector. The consortium offers its member organizations blockchain technology support in product development, regulatory assistance and several other critical areas. Gaining access to the wealth of health expertise and technology guidance that Hashed Health provides, member organizations can launch new health-focused and blockchain-based programs and technologies more efficiently, effectively and affordably.
On August 8th, the Illinois Blockchain Initiative announced a pilot program in partnership with Hashed Health to explore the application of blockchain and distributed ledger technology to the process of issuing and tracking state medical licenses. At a technical level, the project will make full use of smart contracts (small, dedicated programs that store and retrieve specific units of information on-demand) to update medical credentials held in the shared, distributed, blockchain-based system.
According to Bryan Schneider, Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), the pilot program they are launching in partnership with Hashed Health will initially enhance the state’s efforts to make medical licenses for Illinois health professionals more portable. In the long term, the program could potentially serve as a leading example of how all states could more effectively verify and otherwise credential medical licenses. Both providers and payers alike may one day have a national, shared, secure and efficient repository of medical license data, ultimately improving provider listings while streamlining the medical claims process.
Jennifer O’Rourke, Illinois Blockchain Initiative’s Blockchain Business Liason, foresees “sharing our learnings” not only with medical licensing boards in other states, but with all parties with an interest in the project’s goals. CEO of Hashed Health, John Bass, sees the broader goal of the project as a bold proof-of-concept for the value of blockchain that will contribute to a “digital transformation” not only for the state of Illinois, but for the public and private sectors as a whole. Ultimately, they are trying to usher in an era of greater “transparency and trust” between individual citizens and their government.
A promising future
Overall, the Illinois Blockchain Initiative is a bold attempt to bring blockchain technology to one of the most important bodies of data handled by state government: medical licenses. By choosing to partner with healthcare technology innovation consortium Hashed Health they are drawing upon a wealth of blockchain and healthcare expertise that should increase the odds that their pilot program will succeed. If it does, we should expect that the program will serve as a model for other states and organizations that are eager to take advantage of the promise of blockchain to help data flow securely and efficiently throughout the greater healthcare system.