Walmart wins patent for blockchain-based wearable health records device

3 July, 2018

Walmart has shown a great deal of interest in both blockchain technology and healthcare over the past few years. Now it seems the retail giant has found a way to connect the two fields; the company has received approval for a patent covering blockchain-based wearable electronic health records (EHR) devices.

The document from the original filing in December 2017 shows that Walmart intends to develop a method that allows certain data in a patient’s EHR to be accessible via a blockchain-enabled device. This will help first responders provide medical assistance in cases where a patient is unable to communicate.

Designed for emergencies

In order to gain access to a patient’s EHR through the device, two keys must be obtained. One is a public key that is placed on the wearable device itself. This can be scanned by emergency responders using a radio frequency identification (RFID) scanner. The second key is a private one that can only be decrypted by scanning a predetermined biometric signature—such as a fingerprint or retinal image—from the patient.

Once both of these keys are obtained, the care provider will be able to see the patient’s EHR on the device, which in this case will only contain information about things like allergies, blood type, and any preexisting conditions. Anyone without access to the two keys will not be able to see this information.

According to the patent application, several different wearable types are being considered. Whether Walmart creates rings, bracelets, or necklaces, the method for access will stay the same. The devices will also come with two main storage options, depending on the needs and desires of the patient: local memory and cloud-based storage.

Other developments

Walmart seems to have the resources to bring about major changes in healthcare—and put the spotlight on how blockchain can be used for positive impact in the field. According to Fortune, the retail giant is even considering purchasing health insurer Humana, a partnership that would provide a valuable data depository for Walmart assuming the blockchain-based wearable EHR devices prove to be viable.






Image credit: Walmart sign by Mike Mozart via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

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