Blockchain legislation takes step forward


The Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee released a legislative package focused on blockchain technology and its use by private companies, as well as exploring the use of it in government record-keeping.

Blockchain technology, which entails the use of encrypted data that is exchanged between parties, and is the underlying structure of cryptocurrencies, is already being used by at least one New Jersey-based company.

Quest Diagnostics recently announced a pilot program through an alliance with Humana, MultiPlan, UnitedHealth Group’s Optum and UnitedHealthcare, to help solve the problem of interoperability of electronic health records.

Though there are some EHR giants in the industry, some providers choose to go with smaller or more affordable platforms — this results in a lack of coordination, and duplication of efforts when it comes to sharing patient files between different providers.

That costs the health care system a total of about $2.1 billion, according to the alliance.

Lidia Fonseca, senior vice president and chief information officer at Quest, said the alliance members will participate in a private blockchain system in which only the authorized users — the alliance members — will have access to a cooperatively owned and synchronized ledger.

“From our perspective, blockchain is really useful when loosely coupled organizations want to confidently and transparently share information,” she said. “Our goal is that we create, think of it like a golden record, where, for provider information, you have the most up-to-date and complete (record). As soon as one of us makes an update (to the record), it is available to the rest of the alliance members.”

The idea is to prove that blockchain can solve interoperability issues.

The legislation released Thursday, was sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker (Monmouth Junction), Reed Gusciora (Trenton) and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (Englewood).

Zwicker’s bill allows corporations to use the technology for recordkeeping requirements — for shareholder information — and updates existing state laws that don’t include the use of electronic records.

“Because of the security that blockchain technology provides against hacking, it has significant potential for constructive use in information-intensive industries where data privacy is crucial such as health care, banking and government,” Zwicker said. “For corporations that do business in our state, this would simplify shareholder recordkeeping, while allowing them to meet the requirements under current law.”

The bill by Gusciora and Vainieri Huttle establishes a task force that would study the use of blockchain for government — including state, county and local government — records and service delivery.

“This technology provides opportunities for efficiency, cost savings and cybersecurity — all things that government entities at all levels can benefit from,” Gusciora said.

The task force would also study the cost of implementing and utilizing the technology.

“One of the main gripes about government is the bureaucracy that can often complicate the most mundane tasks. Blockchain technology can help counter that by making government work more aptly and efficiently,” said Vainieri Huttle. “That is worth exploring.”