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IBM Watson and FDA to Secure Medical Data with the Blockchain

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IBM Watson Health is joining forces with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to apply blockchain technology to improve the public healthcare system. This initiative, announced January 10, is focused on creating a more efficient, secure and scalable interchange of health data by incorporating the use of blockchain technology. Both the IBM and FDA plan to explore the interchange of patient’s personal health data from a range of sources comprising of Electronic Medical Records, genomic data, clinical trials, data on health from mobile devices and wearables.

IBM Watson analyzes massive volumes of data, can comprehend complex questions and can propose answers based on evidence. Through a process of ever ongoing learning, IBM Watson Health is enhancing the ability of doctors, researchers and insurers to innovate using insights from the vast quantity of personal health data being created and shared. IBM stated their intention to merge the technologies of Artificial Intelligence and the Blockchain, as BTCManager reported in August 2016.

Innovative solutions will be within reach given that the researchers and health providers can gain full access to the overview of patient’s records. Currently, patients have limited access to data to their own health data, and this initiative will empower patients, by providing access to their own records as well as share their information with health providers. Now IBM is turning to the blockchain to allow for the secure transfer of data among all healthcare providers, inviting an opportunity for innovations that would be of benefit to the parties involved to make better choices.

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The initiative with the FDA part of a two-year agreement, where IBM Watson Health and the FDA plan to share initial research findings in 2017. The blockchain’s application here at best will integrate the healthcare system seemingly providing a trusted cooperative environment, by introducing clarity and accountability into the process of data interchange.

Shahram Ebadollahi, Vice President for Innovations and Chief Science Officer, 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.”

Health care systems have been limited with regards to sharing large data resources due to the challenges faced such as data breaches of patient's confidentiality. Blockchain technology enables the storage of records during the process of exchanging of the data and is most significantly immutable; this brings the transparency, security, and audit of accounts to reality with certainty.

According to IBM Institute for Business Value paper, entitled “Healthcare Rallies for Blockchain” more than seven in ten industry leaders expect big benefits for managing clinical trial records, regulatory compliance, and medical/health records from adopting blockchain applications in the healthcare system.

The examination of the blockchain’s uses by the IBM and FDA has the ambition of improving public health through the integration of an array of various data in a healthcare ecosystem that will ignite biomedical discoveries. As the press release states, “Patient data from wearables and connected devices, for example, can help doctors and caregivers better manage population health.”

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 long-term ambition of the project is to put consumers and patients in the epicenter of how their medical data will be shared and used.