Health News

Australian Health Dept experiments with blockchain


Agile Digital, Vault Systems and Australia’s Department of Health recently completed a proof of concept (PoC) blockchain application to track medical research. The medical data itself is not on a blockchain. Instead, access to the data and the data science experiments are logged on a public blockchain.

The aim

Privacy and security were essential requirements for the PoC. The Health Department wanted to avoid the Cambridge Analytica type of data breach. Hence researchers cannot download data.

Instead, all medical data is stored and maintained in Australia by staff vetted by the Australian government. The project uses Vault System’s government certified protected cloud.

Researchers can perform queries on the anonymized data, without having access to the data itself. So the research process is a centralized one, that does not use a blockchain.

How it works

A patients data will not be accessed unless they’ve consented to make it available for medical research. The PoC uses blockchain as an audit trail.

It logs and notarises all queries and experiments. So who ran the research, what types of data it uses, what questions it asks, and the time of the queries.

Currently, only internal researchers have access to the data. Universities do not yet have access.

Last week the project won an iAward run by the Australian Information Industry Association.

Rupert Taylor-Price, Vault Systems’ CEO commented: “Future medical breakthroughs rely on access to medical data and the more consented data the better.”

“This is why we were so eager to work with the Department of Health and Agile Digital on a platform that allows researchers to extract critical medical data without the data leaving its secure environment, and without risking re-identification of patient data.”