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IIT Madras develops blockchain-based healthcare information systems for mobile apps

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A first-of-its-kind system, BlockTrack aims to securely digitise healthcare information systems while protecting sensitive personal information and medical records

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras have developed a first-of-its-kind blockchain-based secure medical data and information-exchange system for a mobile phone-based application called BlockTrack that is currently being field-tested at IIT Madras Institute Hospital.

The project has been undertaken with CSR support from Infosys originating during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. BlockTrack aims to securely digitise healthcare information systems while ensuring the protection of sensitive personal information and medical records by decentralising the control and ownership of patient data through a blockchain-based innovation. The BlockTrack innovation is now protected through a provisional IP filed with the Indian Patent Office.

The android version of the application has been developed separately for both patients as well as doctors. BlockTrack’s algorithm generates identification codes for users and ensures uniqueness across boundaries with very little chance for duplication. It opens up the promise of universal and transferrable healthcare information management with a strong emphasis on data privacy and tracking the spread of infectious diseases across geographies.

BlockTrack allows the interoperability of systems from multiple hospitals, institutes and healthcare organisations. It integrates medical supply chain management and proactive tracking of the spread of contagious infections. The patient can choose to visit any healthcare facility which is on BlockTrack’s blockchain network without having any concerns about duplication of records or re-registrations.

BlockTrack is developed by a team led by Professor Prabhu Rajagopal, Lead Faculty for Remote Diagnostics, Center for Nondestructive Evaluation (CNDE), Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Madras.

Highlighting the unique aspects of this project, Prof Rajagopal said, “BlockTrack is an exciting project that depicts engineering innovations that have disruptive potential to transform multiple domains. This is one of the first implementations of blockchain technology for securing healthcare data management systems and we see immense impact this approach can make in securely digitising and maintaining unique patient records across the country and indeed across the world eventually.”

He added, “The system of permissions natural to blockchain-based distributed ledgers allows editability while maintaining privacy, opening up the possibility to integrate this system across primary healthcare, prescription, pharmacy, distribution and even insurance networks. We are grateful to Dr Sapna Poti at the office of Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) to the Government of India who brought the opportunity for funding this project under COVID-19-themed support, and Infosys, for backing our vision.”

Appreciating the efforts by IIT Madras, Prof K VijayRaghavan, PSA, Government of India, said, “The National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) launched by the Government of India last year had secure processing of individual data and easy accessibility of digitalised personal and medical records by individuals and health service providers as its two important objectives. Effective implementation of these objectives will require leveraging emerging technologies. BlockTrack is a step in the right direction and I congratulate the IIT Madras team for developing an innovative solution for a complex health information system. This will enhance and enable the efforts of health systems to efficiently track disease spread and maintain confidentiality while storing personal data in a network.”

Apart from it, Shashwat Pandey, Mobile App Development lead, said, “The implementation of the entire blockchain system for the institute hospital had many challenges from technical as well as design aspects. It took some thorough research and engineering skills from all the team members for successful execution. DApp (Decentralised Application) is an emerging area of research and development. We are glad that our efforts have finally resulted in possibly the first-ever healthcare-centric DApp with features like universally unique IDs, interoperability and non-duplicity of records.”

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