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IBM Watson Health partners with FDA to study blockchain technology

IBM Watson Health and the FDA are collaborating on a research initiative that aims to define a “secure, efficient and scalable exchange of health data using blockchain technology,” according to an IBM release.

The two-year initiative will initially focus on oncology-related data. Blockchain has the potential to make it easier for cancer patients to share their health data securely with providers and researchers. One barrier to cancer research is the lack of a national infrastructure to which patients can contribute their data. To remedy that issue, the Cancer Moonshot has called for a National Cancer Data Ecosystem. By connecting data that often exists in separate databases, cancer research can move more quickly because all of the information is available in an easily accessible and centralized location. This will then allow providers and researchers to identify new and more effective treatments.

The joint initiative will explore how blockchain can be used for health information exchange across data types such as clinical trials. Patient-generated data from wearables and other connected devices will also be analyzed for population health management. The collaboration will also explore a “secure owner-mediated data sharing ecosystem” that could improve public health and lead to new discoveries, according to the release.

The FDA and IBM Watson Health will share their initial research findings in 2017.