IBM Watson and FDA collaborate to explore the use of blockchain data in population health management

By Heather Mack
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IBM Watson Health has announced a joint initiative with the US Food and Drug Administration to study the use of blockchain technology to share health data to ultimately improve public health.

At first, the two-year collaboration will focus on oncology data, pulling together and exchanging data from a variety of sources including that from clinical trials, genomic data, EMRs, and from miscellaneous Internet of Things data from wearables, apps and connected devices.

IBM and the FDA will look at how the technology can facilitate information exchange across a spectrum of data types, including clinical trials and real world data. For example, patient-generated data from connected devices could provide clinicians with more insights into population health, potentially offering up research opportunities and ways to leverage large quantities of data into biomedical and healthcare industries.

At the core of the collaboration is blockchain technology, which allows secure data sharing between organizations more freely and has been increasingly favored among industry leaders.   

 “The healthcare industry is undergoing significant changes due to the vast amounts of disparate data being generated,” Shahram Ebadollahi, IBM Watson Health Vice President for Innovations and Chief Science Officer, said in a statement. “Blockchain technology provides a highly secure, decentralized framework for data sharing that will accelerate innovation throughout the industry.”