IBM: Hm, medical record security... security... Got it – we need blockchains

Big Blue pretty sure it can sell more Watson boxes if this works

IBM says it will partner with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on a study of whether blockchain technology could be used to securely transfer medical information.

Big Blue says that its Watson Health unit will work with the FDA on a study aimed at pitching a framework for the use of blockchain technologies to make the transfer of medical records between doctors and facilities more secure.

The two-year project is looking to post its first findings in 2017, with an initial study to be based on oncology data. The other areas set for research include individual medical records, the raw data and results from clinical trials, and the collection of health data from connected devices and wearables.

The hope is that, by using blockchains to store and share medical records between providers, the process of requesting, sending, and receiving a patient's medical data can be sped up while keeping records secure and creating an audit trail.

"The healthcare industry is undergoing significant changes due to the vast amounts of disparate data being generated," Watson Health chief science officer and VP for innovations Shahram Ebadollahi said.

"Blockchain technology provides a highly secure, decentralized framework for data sharing that will accelerate innovation throughout the industry."

IBM, meanwhile, would stand to benefit from the study by winning more business in a healthcare industry that has been one of the most reliable markets for Watson.

The enterprise compute giant has also been pushing blockchain as an area of focus for its legacy mainframe business. A push further into the medical market for blockchain technology would both help IBM advance the Watson brand and shift a few more mainframe boxes in the process. ®

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