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Building a blockchain network designed for community-based healthcare

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distanced crowd

Our Casey journey began when COVID-19 hit the United States. We learned of bluetooth/proximity apps that were designed to automatically alert people that someone contagious had been near them and that they, in turn, needed to isolate for a period of time. The stories of these apps are extensive, and some countries, in particular India and Singapore, reported success with them. However, in the U.S., something completely different was going on.

To learn more about this, several of my colleagues and I took the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Contact Tracing course. This shed a lot of light on what was being done in the U.S. for contact tracing, and why bluetooth/proximity apps were not being considered here. At the same time, we learned that Apple and Google devised a plan by which they would collect data such as who had tested positive, and who had contact with that person, and that they would not share it with the health departments.

See how IBM Blockchain is responding to COVID-19

Current challenges in contact tracing

Now, six months after our research began, we know the results of many of the early attempts at contact tracing solutions. Bluetooth/proximity contact tracing has not hit widespread adoption in the United States; it hit a major stumbling block when a Utah-based company claimed it has the patent rights. Many states and private organizations also built apps based on efforts led by large software companies but given a lack of willingness to share data with health officials, those efforts were severely curtailed.

As part of Kilroy Blockchain‘s deep dive, we also studied the workflow of contact tracing at the state, county and city level and found the procedures to often be disjointed and antiquated. For instance, we found that the process to get results from a case manager to a contact tracer is typically to print the results and then fax the papers to the contact tracer, who receives the faxes and then retypes the results into another system. As we understood this need, our team decided to build a case management system with a customizable workflow — and Casey was born.

A solution beyond the problem

Case management and contact tracing contracts are being filled by large, for-profit corporations while community-based organizations miss out on this enormous opportunity. Yet contact tracing is a great entry-level job for someone who is entering the workforce for the first time or re-entering after a break. Contact tracer, case manager, supervisor, and interpreter positions can lead to other office jobs or even help someone to become interested in the medical or public health fields.

Here are some of the key benefits of using Casey:

  • Casey’s blockchain network and system of smart contracts helps community-based organizations to accomplish what large corporations can accomplish, by working together as a group.
  • Because the community-based organizations are all pre-screened, they can feel comfortable building new relationships within the network.
  • Casey provides the tools not only for building these relationships, but also those tools that are needed to conduct the contact tracing and case management.
  • Casey also provides a way for the public to positively identify personnel who may call them — building a layer of trust that is needed in order to raise the impact of contact tracing programs.

Taking Casey even further

My team is very happy that Casey has been selected as a Grand Prize Winner in the IBM COVID-19 “Back-to-work” contest, and we’d like to send a huge THANK YOU to IBM! With the great folks at IBM helping us along the way, we have the perfect partnership we need to make Casey a huge success.

We plan to release our new systems — casey.health and caseysurvey.com — very soon this year. Please sign up on either website to receive updates.

From time to time, we invite industry thought leaders, academic experts and partners, to share their opinions and insights on current trends in blockchain to the Blockchain Pulse blog. While the opinions in these blog posts are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of IBM, this blog strives to welcome all points of view to the conversation.

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