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Canadian hospital collaborates with IBM for health consent blockchain

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Toronto-based research hospital University Health Network (UHN) is working with IBM, eHealth Ontario, and the Blockchain Research Institute on a blockchain health records platform. 

Health systems are complex, and the diverse network of caregivers makes it challenging to share patient data. On the other hand, patients have little visibility over how and with whom their data is shared. The UHN is leveraging blockchain to enable secure sharing of health data, controlled by patients and based on individual consent. 

“It’s difficult for patients to have a unified view of all of their data, of all of the providers who sit in different places, in different organizations,” said David Wiljer, UHN’s executive director of Education Technology Innovation told The Star.

The project participants have developed a mobile application , allowing patients to control who sees their data and when. Currently, the app provides access to only UHN-produced data, but Wiljer said he sees the potential to enable patients to control and access all their data in one place. 

In a blog post by IBM, it said the system uses a private permissioned blockchain (Hyperledger Fabric), and enable secure access to electronic health records (EHR). The project’s initial focus is on sharing data for research purposes. 

Meanwhile, the blockchain itself does not store patient data. In this case, the consent directive is recorded by a blockchain, with the patient using the mobile app to grant access to parties when requested. 

Blockchain for health data management is a popular test use case due to the current siloed structure of the healthcare industry. IBM has experience in managing health data using blockchain, and last year worked with to launch the My31 App. The app enables users to control the use of their healthcare information. 

IBM is also part of a blockchain healthcare consortium along with Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), Sentara and PNC Bank. 

Chinese internet giant Baidu has a blockchain solution for securely sharing and distributing medical data. It stores health records, including diagnoses, treatments and prescriptions, and is based on Baidu’s XuperChain. 

In Taiwan, the Hospital of Taipei Medical University launched a blockchain for smart health passports and sharing medical data between health organizations.