Health News

IEEE to explore blockchain for clinical trials


Today, the IEEE announced the launch of its initiative to use technologies including blockchain for clinical trials. The global organization aims to increase efficiency and enable remote research, reducing site costs and providing better patient experiences.

The IEEE and its Standards Association (IEEE SA) named the project ‘Technology and Data Harmonization for Enabling Remote Clinical Trials’. The first stage will be testing out technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality, and artificial intelligence along with blockchain.

The chair of the project, Tory Cenaj, said: “The estimated $44.2 billion global clinical trials market is facing a number of challenges related to patient recruitment and retention, rising costs to meet regulatory policies, data governance, and more.”

To address these points, the IEEE outlined four main goals: efficient and inclusive patient engagement, data integrity, a single immutable patient log, and reduced time and costs. While the organization has to yet to publish details of how it plans to use blockchain, it is well suited to the data aspects.

The technology would allow for an immutable and trustworthy ledger of patient information, with the potential for patients to give their consent to data usage through smart contracts. This transparent ledger could also address the IEEE’s data integrity point, as blockchain stored data is easily auditable.

“This important project establishes a framework for vastly improving how remote patient clinical trials are conducted by leveraging new technologies to significantly reduce the time and cost of bringing life-saving medicines to market,” summarized Cenaj.

Once solutions have been developed, the IEEE will use its work in a simulated clinical trial.

Healthcare is emerging as a crucial use case for blockchain, especially trials. Last year, we spoke to Daniel Hwang at the IEEE about representing health data on a blockchain. Pharma giants Pfizer and Biogen completed a proof of concept for the clinical trial supply chain this summer. Meanwhile, fellow clinical firm Boehringer Ingelheim is working with IBM in the same area.

Similar projects in medical research are underway by Embleema with Gustave Roussy, Nebula Genomics, and by R3 and HSBlox.