The blockchain is coming to healthcare.
Over the past year, the chorus of voices that are calling for blockchain's adoption in the medical profession is growing increasingly loud.
Already, a pilot project from MIT's Media Lab has shown great results in a pilot program with Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital. There, the university has rolled out a blockchain application that creates a ledger for health care treatments on electronic health records.
Now, the Venice, Calif.-based company, Gem, is bringing that blockchain technology to a broader set of applications through work the company is conducting with the Centers for Disease Control and with the European technology services company, Tieto.
Announced today, Gem will be working with the Centers for Disease Control on their 27-man blockchain application development team.
At the CDC, researchers are looking at ways to manage population health and disaster response by putting data collection and analysis operations on the blockchain.
The benefits of an immutable ledger in situations where there's been a disease outbreak seem obvious, according to Gem chief executive Micah Winkelspecht.
The analysis is focused on disaster relief and response. The CDC is most interested in the ways in which environmental damage can effect population health, according to Winkelspecht.
Particularly, the degradation of data after it's collected has become a problem that the CDC would like to address. By putting the data in an immutable, blockchain-based ledger, it could go a long way toward ensuring data transparency and accuracy -- or so the CDC's thinking goes.
Meanwhile, Gem's other project with Tieto is a bit more sweeping. Already integral in building out Northern Europe's healthcare system, Tieto is now hoping to establish a patient record system, based on blockchain technology provided by Gem.
With Tieto, Gem is taking its first step toward letting users own more of their data and determine who they want to share that data with.
"We're building a consent management solution on the blockchain for data sharing," says Winkespecht. "To exchange and share data from one party and one hospital to another you need to be able to get the users' consent."
Much of this is being driven by the passage of the General Data Protection Regulation, that's set to take effect in Europe next year.
The regulations demand that individuals have control over their personal information and how it's managed and shared and stored and used by technology companies and third parties that would seek to buy that information.
"The reality is your data is going from party to party all the time," says Winkespecht. "It’s being bought and sold without your knowledge. What we believe and what GDPR is enforcing is bringing that data back to the user to see how that data is managed and bringing that consent back to the citizen."
Specifically, the project between Gem and Tieto will link genetic data stored in Nordic biobanks, personal health records at hospitals and individual citizens to create personalized medical records to enable more personalized medicine and treatments, according to the companies.
The idea is to give citizens the right to consent to have their genetic data linked to their personalized health records in a way that's not anonymized so that the patients can receive better care.