IBM announced on Wednesday that it had signed a research initiative with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to research whether blockchain technology can be used to securely record and share medical data.
“The health care 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.
Blockchain, which was originally used to secure ledgers for bitcoin transactions, is difficult to modify due to the interconnected nature of the program. This feature of the technology will help to establish “accountability and transparency” in the exchange of health data, according to the IBM press release.
The current research initiative will initially focus on oncology-related data, but also aims to eventually explore the benefits of storing and sharing electronic medical record, clinical trial, genomic, wearable, and IoT data through blockchain.
According to a December 2016 IBM survey on the potential benefits of blockchain in medicine, more than 70 percent of health care executives surveyed see that the greatest benefits of blockchain could be found in clinical trial records, regulatory compliance, and medical or health records.
Though the initiative between IBM and FDA is a two-year agreement, IBM intends to release initial findings from the research sometime in 2017.