IBM, FDA join forces to bring blockchains to healthcare

IBM Watson Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have joined together in a research initiative to determine if blockchain technology can be used as a secure patient data sharing platform.

Blockchain technology, a public ledger where transactions are recorded and confirmed anonymously, is known for its security and efficiency in data sharing. Blockchains will be tested by the two-year long initiative in data sources including electronic health records (EHRs), clinical trials, genomic data, mobile devices and wearables.

“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 innovation and chief science officer for IBM Watson Health.

The IBM published paper, "Healthcare rallies for Blockchains," using data from a survey of 200 healthcare executives, stated that at least seven in 10 executives believe blockchains can improve the managing clinical trial records, regulatory compliance and medical/health records. The initiative will further develop the blockchain infrastructure into proving data sharing within healthcare, possibly leading to new biomedical discoveries and helping clinicians improve public health. Large amount of data will also be tested in sharing with blockchain to create an environment of secure sharing of data.