IBM Watson and the FDA are currently working on transmitting medical data using Blockchain technology. Healthcare practitioners are indeed looking forward eagerly to using this approach as it might fulfil the promise of improving the overall medical system.

Blockchain now moving into eHealth

It’s now official: IBM Watson and the US Food and Drug Administration have reached an agreement to jointly trial the secure exchange of medical data using the Blockchain – an information transmission and storage technology that is transparent, secure, and works without any central server or controlling authority.

The two partners will now be able to exchange documents including electronic medical files, clinical studies, genomic data, and data flows from medical equipment. This pioneering agreement in the eHealth field brings with it the promise of improving the health system. Firstly, obtaining these documents easily will give healthcare workers a 360° view of their patients’ history and make it a lot easier to draw up a reliable diagnosis. Extended use of the Blockchain is also likely to have the secondary benefit of fostering further advances in medical research. Last but not least, such data exchanges will help create a more reliable, transparent and secure multiscale medical ecosystem.

A survey entitled ‘Healthcare rallies for blockchains - Keeping patients at the center’, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit on behalf of the IBM Institute for Business Value, found that healthcare professionals are looking forward to the arrival of Blockchain in their field. Some seven out of ten organisations polled are in favour of using this technique to improve medical data management and manage compliance issues.

Nevertheless, the proponents of using Blockchain in the medical sector will have to overcome a hefty obstacle, as this technique not only asks important questions but – given that it may lay patients’ private affairs open to scrutiny – also raises fears in some quarters. Is medical confidentiality about to become a thing of the past?  

By Laura Frémy