OSF HealthCare collaborates to test blockchain-based app to reward healthy behaviors

PEORIA, Ill. and URBANA, Ill., May 10, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Research shows nearly half the people who have chronic conditions don’t take their medications as prescribed and that not sticking with medical advice results in an estimated $100 billion dollars in unnecessary health care spending.

A project to build a blockchain-based smart phone rewards app would use technology that could help meet requirements of consumer privacy and protection laws is led by OSF Innovation Senior Fellow and Clinical Informaticist Dr. Jonathan Handler. The research, through the Jump Arches program will have support from Innovation Engineer Tate Ralph of Jump Simulation, along with Wencui Han and Andrew Miller, assistant professors at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Gies College of Business and the Grainer College of Engineering, respectively.

Blockchain is considered an easier, more secure way to transfer data. Ralph says because users would be anonymous and the suppliers of the rewards are not identified, the incentive program should not be considered an inducement to use a certain medical provider or service – something prohibited under federal laws.

Ralph says consumers using the blockchain-based rewards app could be rewarded quickly for exercising, taking medication, or any number of other healthy behaviors, unlike the kinds of programs insurance companies currently offer clients.

“You would actually be accepting currency directly; likely cryptocurrency in our case, but maybe some other digital transaction that would immediately give you that return. Other systems (insurance reward programs), will take a lot longer and it’ll be harder to see directly the impact of what you’re doing.”

A system called “zero knowledge proof,” allowed through blockchain technology, will be tested to see if it can meet privacy and consumer compliance laws.

“It’s a way to prove that you are doing what you’re supposed to be doing or prove that you have a certain diagnosis, so that if we incentivize you – even if we don’t know who you are – we can ensure that it’s a trustworthy system.”

Ralph says researchers with experience in digital interfaces for incentives will drive some of the work.

“I really think we have the experts in place, the team in place, to tackle this kind of issue. I think the average patient is going to interact with it as an app on their phone, where they can input data, and scroll through a marketplace and see what they can be incentivized for and kind of go from there.”

The Jump ARCHES research should also prove what other studies have shown – that rewards can motivate people to change their behavior … in this case, sticking with medical recommendations in between appointments. 

“You only have a clinical touchpoint every couple of months or every half of year, something like that, so you’re less incentivized to think about it until you have to start kicking it into gear because you’re going to go in (to the office) and you don’t want to be embarrassed, frankly” Ralph observes. “So, I think something like this, where you have a positive reason to do it; not just a negative reason, I think that can be really powerful to help people be healthier.” 

Ralph adds future enhancements to the blockchain-based app could also use data from wearables or in-home monitors and could be applied to community health initiatives such as vaccinations and health screenings.

The blockchain rewards research is one of 11 research projects that are sharing slightly more than $700,000 through the Jump ARCHES research and development program.

Here are summaries of the complete list of Jump ARCHES award projects for spring 2022.  

For more assets with this story, including photos, video and audio, please visit the
OSF Newsroom.

OSF HealthCare is an integrated health system owned and operated by The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, headquartered in Peoria, Illinois. OSF HealthCare employs nearly 24,000 Mission Partners in 150 locations, including 15 hospitals – 10 acute care, five critical access – with 2,089 licensed beds, and two colleges of nursing throughout Illinois and Michigan. The OSF HealthCare physician network employs more than 1,500 primary care, specialist and advanced practice providers. OSF HealthCare, through OSF Home Care Services, operates an extensive network of home health and hospice services. It also owns Pointcore, Inc., comprised of health care-related businesses; OSF HealthCare Foundation, the philanthropic arm for the organization; and OSF Ventures, which provides investment capital for promising health care innovation startups. More at osfhealthcare.org.

Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center, a part of OSF Innovation, is a collaboration between University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria and OSF HealthCare. Jump replicates a variety of patient care settings to ensure novice and seasoned clinicians can practice handling medical situations in a real-world environment. Boasting six floors and 168,000 square feet, the center is one of the largest of its kind and provides space for conferences, anatomic training, virtual reality and innovation. For more information, visit www.jumpsimulation.org.

Partners in Jump ARCHES:

University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria (UICOMP) educates 244 medical students and nearly 300 physician residents annually. The College of Medicine is home to the Cancer Research Center, the Center for Outcomes Research and is a collaborator in Jump Simulation. Learn more about UICOMP at peoria.medicine.uic.edu.

Health Care Engineering Systems Center (HCESC) provides clinical immersion and fosters collaboration between engineers and physicians. HCESC designs collaborative solutions to improve health care outcomes utilizing their expertise in simulation technologies, smart health systems, data analytics, human factors and medical robotics. HCESC partners with Jump in this innovative relationship of Applied Research for Community Health through Engineering and Simulation (ARCHES). HCESC is a research center in The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois. Learn more about HCESC at healtheng.illinois.edu/.

University of Illinois Grainger College of Engineering
is one of the world’s top-ranked engineering programs with students, faculty and alumni that set the standard for excellence. The college is focused on driving the economy, reimagining engineering education and bringing revolutionary ideas to the world. They work to solve the world’s greatest challenges and look toward the future to find ways to make the solutions reality. Learn more about the College of Engineering at grainger.illinois.edu.

Contact: Colleen Reynolds| Media Relations Coordinator – OSF HealthCare | (309) 825-7255

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