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Using Blockchain to Enhance Health Care Security 

By Jon Cawley

Blockchain has attracted attention as the underpinning technology for emerging cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin. However, it can be used to provide security and privacy in a wide range of technology applications on distributed systems, such as cloud and Internet of Things (IoT).

Sachin Shetty, a cybersecurity researcher and associate professor at the Old Dominion University Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC), wants to develop security monitoring solutions to detect and identify the presence of rogue devices on cyber infrastructures. Shetty's proposal, "Blockchain Empowered Networked Device Identity Management," will enhance identity management of networked devices using blockchain's distributed ledger technology.

Based on Shetty's proposal, Old Dominion is partnering with Sentara Healthcare on a three-year project to develop a blockchain-empowered cybersecurity solution to monitor network activities of mobile devices and provide real-time alerts of unauthorized devices or communications. The project will involve developing and integrating a blockchain-based identity management solution within Sentara Healthcare's cyber infrastructure. The project team will also work on enhancing scalability and assessing the limitations of the blockchain platform.

"With ongoing work for the Air Force Research Lab, we have been able to come up with a proof of concept of how a blockchain-enabled data provenance system could help track data," Shetty said. "My interest was to see what type of case would be a good fit for health care. Can we use blockchain to detect any unauthorized entity accessing data? Can we use blockchain to detect a rogue device? The goal is to provide the ability to track and report any unauthorized access or modification to data."

Morris Foster, vice president for research at Old Dominion, said the project is a great example of the University and a major regional employer working together on a practical challenge -- "in this case the privacy of health information that could solve an everyday problem and result in a new business line for Sentara."

Eric Weisel, executive director of VMASC, said the University is excited to partner with Sentara on groundbreaking research.

"The Sentara Healthcare collaboration will strengthen both the cybersecurity and health-care research portfolios at VMASC and engage students at the intersection of these critical fields," he said.

Dan Bowden, Sentara Healthcare vice president of information security and chief information security officer, sees this effort as one of several productive initiatives with ODU.

"The Sentara Healthcare cybersecurity program has benefited greatly from our broad association with Old Dominion University," Bowden said. "We're eagerly looking forward to working on this platform with Dr. Shetty's team. The platform will improve our overall cybersecurity posture and, being built on blockchain technology, we believe it will result in many yet-to-be-reaped opportunities in the future."

According to Mike Reagin, Sentara Healthcare corporate vice president and chief information officer, "Dr. Shetty's wealth of knowledge in cybersecurity, blockchain and cloud technologies have made him and Old Dominion University trusted consulting partners. We consider the Sentara-ODU relationship vital as we develop our interoperability strategies. Blockchain will be a key ingredient for achieving true health-care IT interoperability."

About Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University, located in the coastal city of Norfolk, is Virginia's entrepreneurial-minded doctoral research university with more than 24,000 students, rigorous academics, an energetic residential community, and initiatives that contribute $2.6 billion annually to Virginia's economy.

About Sentara Healthcare

Sentara Healthcare, based in Norfolk, VA, celebrates more than 130 years in pursuit of its mission to improve health every day. Sentara is an integrated not-for-profit system of 12 hospitals in Virginia and North Carolina, including a Level I trauma center with Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance. The Sentara family also includes four medical groups, ambulatory campuses, post-acute care services, the physician-led Sentara Quality Care Network, the Sentara College of Health Sciences, Optima Health Plan members in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, and a team of professionals 28,000 strong. Sentara is strategically focused on continuous improvement in quality, safety, and the patient experience.

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