- Walmart has been awarded a patent for a system that would store a person’s medical information in a blockchain database and allow first responders to retrieve it in the event of an emergency.
- The patent, issued last week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, describes three key parts to the system: a wearable device in which the blockchain is stored; a biometric scanner for an individual’s biometric signature; and an RFID scanner to scan the wearable device, ideally a bracelet or wrist band.
- According to the patent, first responders would scan the device to access an encrypted private key. They would decrypt that using the biometric identifier and, with a second public key, retrieve the victim’s records.
Walmart has been revving up its focus on healthcare. The retail giant has touted the idea of “optimized networks” to improve consumer price and cost transparency while steering patients to providers with better performance ratings.
In April, reports surfaced that Walmart is in early talks to acquire Humana. The two companies already partner on Medicare Part D drug plans, but an official deal has yet to be announced.
With the patent for a blockchain-enabled medical records storage system, Walmart is following companies like Apple, Microsoft and Google parent Alphabet that have taken a swing to develop medical record tools.
To date, medical records have been a mixed bag for the larger tech companies. Google discontinued its PHR product in 2011 while Apple this month has opened its Health Records API to developers and researchers and said the PHR is now connected with more than 500 hospitals and clinics.
Between 2013 and 2017, the three tech giants filed for 313 healthcare-related patents, according to a recent Ernst & Young report.
These patents provide clues to where the companies see opportunities in the healthcare space. Microsoft’s 73 patents are focused on expanding artificial intelligence capabilities and developing devices to monitor chronic conditions. Apple, with 54 patients, is looking at ways to use iPhones to capture biometric data and has teamed up with Stanford University to develop algorithms to predict abnormal heart rates using data on Apple Watch.
With 186 patents, Alphabet’s throwing its weight into its DeepMind AI division and Verily Life Sciences, with initiatives in diabetes, bioelectronics and smart operating room technology.