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IBM Watson Health and FDA Look at Blockchain Technology for Healthcare Data

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IBM Watson Health has announced it has signed a research initiative with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration aimed at defining a secure, efficient and scalable exchange of health data using blockchain technology. IBM and the FDA will explore the exchange of owner mediated data from several sources, such as Electronic Medical Records, clinical trials, genomic data, and health data from mobile devices, wearables and the Internet of Things. The initial focus will be on oncology-related data. The initiative with the FDA is a two-year agreement. IBM Watson Health and the FDA plan to share initial research findings in 2017.

Transformative healthcare solutions are possible when healthcare researchers and providers have access to a full view of patient data. Patients have little access to their own health data and have little possibility to easily share with researchers or providers. Giving patients the opportunity to share their data securely, for research purposes or across their healthcare providers, creates opportunities for faster advancements in healthcare. Blockchain technology can be used to make this happen. As a founding member and key contributor to the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger project, IBM will bring expertise in blockchain technology.

A recent IBM Institute for Business Value paper ‘Healthcare rallies for blockchains1’, based on a survey of around 200 healthcare executives, found that more than seventy percent of industry leaders anticipate the highest benefits of blockchain in healthcare to accrue to managing clinical trial records, regulatory compliance and medical or health records.

IBM and the FDA will explore how a blockchain framework can potentially provide benefits to public health by supporting important use cases for information exchange across a wide variety of data types, including clinical trials and real-world evidence data. New insights combining data across the healthcare ecosystem can potentially lead to new biomedical discoveries. Patient data such as that from wearables and connected devices can help doctors and caregivers better manage population health.

The collaboration will also address new ways to leverage the large volumes of diverse data in the biomedical and healthcare industries. A secure owner-mediated data sharing ecosystem could benefit the progress to new discoveries and improved public health.

Shahram Ebadollahi, Vice President for Innovations and Chief Science Officer at IBM Watson Health, said: “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,”

Matthew Warner
Based near Windsor, England, Matthew Warner is an enthusiast for innovative, cutting edge technologies. He is a B.Eng. graduate in engineering with honors from the University of Warwick and also holds an PGCE in education degree. Matthew is a member of Mensa.