IBM Watson Health announced it signed a two-year research initiative agreement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to explore the use of blockchain technology for the exchange of health data.
"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 at IBM Watson Health.
IBM Watson Health and the FDA said they plan to share initial results of the collaboration later this year.
Blockchain is best known for its use in the financial services industry, but IBM says the tech also has significant potential for managing clinical trial records, regulatory compliance and medical/health records data.
Under the agreement, IBM and the FDA will explore the exchange of "owner mediated" oncology data from sources including "Electronic Medical Records, clinical trials, genomic data and data from mobile devices, wearables and IoT sensors," according to IBM.
Ultimately, blockchain could provide patients better access to their own health data because its ability to maintain an audit trail of transactions on an unalterable ledger means health data can be maintained securely. Patients can then share their data more easily with researchers or providers without concerns the data could be altered.
This capability could give patients, or perhaps consumers in general, more access and control over their own data in the future.