IBM and FDA collaborate to protect patient data with blockchain technology

pharmafile | January 12, 2017 | News story | Medical Communications, Research and Development FDA, blockchain, blockchain technology, ibm 

IBM Watson Health has agreed a research initiative with the FDA to develop and test the exchange of patients’ health data in a secure manner through blockchain technology. Blockchain technology first came to attention through cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, as a secure means of transferring funds; this technology could now be utilised to protect patient data.

With the variety of data being generated from numerous new sources, there has been an explosion of health data with potential for use in research and development of new treatments. IBM cited the Electronic Medical Records, clinical trials, genomic data, and health data from mobile devices, wearable and the “Internet of Things” as some of the primary sources of health data. With the increase in data, there has also arisen a black market for this data and so hackers are able to make money from stealing the data and selling it on – security for this data then has become of paramount concern to those involved in the collection and utilisation of said data.

IBM explained in its press release on the announced collaboration: “By keeping an audit trail of all transactions on an unalterable distributed ledger, blockchain technology establishes accountability and transparency in the data exchange process. In the past, large scale sharing of health data has been limited by concerns of data security and breaches of patient privacy during the data exchange process.”

If a blockchain framework was able to establish a more secure method in which to share patient data then it would lead to the increase in sharing and circulation of that data between research bodies and institutions. It could also allow doctors and caregivers to support individuals under their care and better manage their health.

“The healthcare industry is undergoing significant changes due to the vast amounts of disparate data being generated. Blockchain technology provides a highly secure, decentralized framework for data sharing that will accelerate innovation throughout the industry,” said Shahram Ebadollahi, vice President for Innovations and Chief Science Officer, IBM Watson Health.

The collaboration has an agreement of two years, with IBM and FDA aiming to share initial research findings during the course of 2017.

Ben Hargreaves

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