IBM Signs Blockchain Research Initiative With FDA

IBM Watson Health has signed a two-year research initiative with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that will explore practical, safe, and accessible exchange of health data on the blockchain. During this period, the FDA and IBM will look into the benefits of the blockchain for use cases, such as electronic medical records, clinical trials, genomic data, and health data from wearable devices that support the “Internet of Things” (IoT).

Migration to a blockchain-based ecosystem by the healthcare field will allow for large scale sharing of medical data across many different medical facilities and carriers. Since the healthcare industry relies on central servers, this is an area of concern within the community as looming threats of hackers perpetuate the risk of data security and breaches. This concern will be mitigated by blockchain technology, which allows for an audit trail that will facilitate accountability, transparency, and trustless interactions between parties. The healthcare industry is excited about exchanging information across the blockchain because the consolidation of medical data across a whole ecosystem could eventually lead to biomedical breakthroughs.

The FDA and IBM will also look into the blockchain to allow for the exchange of data types such as clinical trials and “real world” evidence data, such as patient data from wearables could be used to assist doctors, caregivers, and researchers with assessing the health of the overall population.  

In a recent survey of 200 healthcare executives titled “Healthcare rallies for blockchains, six in ten healthcare industry leaders anticipate that the blockchain will allow them to access new markets and keep trusted information more secure. Seven in ten industry leaders expect the greatest blockchain benefits to be from clinical trials records, regulatory compliance, and medical/health records. Shahram Ebadollahi, Vice President, Innovations and Chief Science Officer of IBM Watson Health, stated:

"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,"

IBM and the FDA plan to share their initial research findings this year.