Blockchain technology has been popping up everywhere from the financial industry to supply-chain management to authentication — and most recently (and perhaps most influentially) in how public agencies manage health records.
Blockchain, the shared ledger technology that notably underpins the Bitcoin online currency, has been finding its own notoriety in the past couple of years as a critical building block for how several different industries plan to reshape the way they share, store and secure critical information. Earlier this year, IBM Watson Health announced a joint research initiative with the Food and Drug Administration, aimed at leveraging blockchain technology to create a secure, efficient and scalable exchange of health data.
Although work will initially focus on oncology-related data, the partners will also be exploring the use of blockchain for exchanging data from electronic medical records, clinical trials, genomic data and even mobile devices, wearables and internet of things-type IP-connected devices. IBM and FDA plan to share their initial research findings in 2017 under their two-year agreement.
“Blockchain technology has the potential to support secure exchange of large volumes of data while ensuring patient privacy and maintaining data integrity,” said Angela Stark, press officer for the Office of External Affairs at the FDA. “These are critical features of a scalable data exchange ecosystem that can support high-quality research while safeguarding against breaches of sensitive patient-level data.”