IIT Madras researchers develop blockchain-based health information systems for mobile phone apps

A first-of-its-kind system, ‘BlockTrack’ aims to securely digitize Healthcare Information Systems while protecting sensitive personal information and medical records

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New Delhi: Indian Institute of Technology Madras researchers have developed ‘BlockTrack’, a first-of-its-kind blockchain-based secure medical data and information exchange system for a mobile phone-based application. This system 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 digitize healthcare information systems while ensuring the protection of sensitive personal information and medical records by decentralizing 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 transferable 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 organizations. 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 Prof. 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. Prabhu Rajagopal, Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Madras, 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 digitizing and maintaining unique patient records across the country and indeed across the world eventually.”
Prof. Prabhu Rajagopal 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.”
Prof. K. VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser, Government of India, said, “The National Digital Health Mission launched by the Government of India last year had secure processing of individual data and easy accessibility of digitalized 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.”
Dr. Rebecca Punithavalli, Chief Medical Officer, IIT Madras Institute Hospital, who had supported pilot trials, said, “Technology in the medical field is required at all levels. Manual record-keeping requires us to ensure constant accessibility of data along with its safety, which is an engaging task. In a medical emergency, it is critical to know the patient’s medical history of illnesses, surgeries, medication, allergies among others. Having easy access to such information via a phone app can be very useful and helpful.  Hence, BlockTrack will truly solve the purpose as technological assistance in time of need.”
IIT Madras Team leader Mr. Abhishek Rana said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed several gaps in the areas of healthcare information management. This made us think about how our team can use the knowledge of blockchain to fill the gap. Over the last nine months, our team worked diligently to realize the BlockTrack mobile application. Our interactions with the doctors and patients at the IIT Madras Institute hospital provided us with rich insights to improve our technology for a wider launch which will eventually revolutionize modern-day healthcare information systems.”
Mobile App Development Lead Mr. Shashwat Pandey added, “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 (Decentralized 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.”