January 11, 2017
Watson Health has signed a research initiative with the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) 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.
Transformative healthcare solutions are possible when healthcare
researchers and providers have access to a 360-degree view of patient
data. Today, patients have little access to their health data and cannot
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 major
advancements in healthcare. Blockchain technology, which enables
organizations to work together with more trust, is designed to help make
this a reality.
By keeping an audit trail of all transactions on an unalterable
distributed ledger, blockchain technology establishes accountability and
transparency in the data exchange process. In the past, large scale
sharing of health data has been limited by concerns of data security and
breaches of patient privacy during the data exchange process.
A recent IBM Institute for Business Value paper ‘Healthcare rallies for
blockchains’, based on a survey of about 200 healthcare executives,
found that more than seven in ten industry leaders anticipate the
highest benefits of blockchain in healthcare to accrue to managing
clinical trial records, regulatory compliance and medical/health
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 from wearables and connected
devices for example, can help doctors and caregivers better manage
The collaboration will also address new ways to leverage the large
volumes of diverse data in today’s biomedical and healthcare industries.
A secure owner-mediated data sharing ecosystem could potentially hold
the promise of new discoveries and improved public health.
brings extensive expertise in blockchain technology, for example, IBM is
founding member and key contributor to the Linux Foundation's
As the promise of blockchain in healthcare becomes increasingly evident,
IBM will work to define and build the technological solution for a
scalable and decentralized data sharing ecosystem.
“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,
IBM Watson Health.
The initiative with the FDA is a two-year agreement. IBM Watson Health
and the FDA plan to share initial research findings in 2017.