Healthcare Data Analytics

Testing Blockchain Technology for Clinical Trials in Canada

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By: Dr. Uli Brödl, Vice President, Medical and Regulatory Affairs, Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd.

The healthcare industry is undergoing significant changes due to the vast amounts of disparate data being generated. There is a huge need for transformative healthcare solutions where healthcare researchers, providers, and patients have access to a 360-degree view of health data. Blockchain technology provides a highly secure, decentralized framework for data sharing that could accelerate innovation throughout the industry.

Blockchain technology in healthcare has made significant strides in the last few years. IBM entered into research projects with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Center for Disease Control, and more recently announced a multi-company health utility network being formed to create an inclusive blockchain network that can benefit multiple members of the healthcare ecosystem in a secure, shared environment.

And now, Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd. and IBM Canada have announced a collaboration to test whether blockchain technology in clinical trials provides a decentralized framework that enables data integrity, provenance, transparency, and patient empowerment as well as automation of processes, ultimately improving trial quality and patient safety at reduced cost. This collaboration underscores Boehringer Ingelheim’s commitment to healthcare innovation and marks the first time that blockchain technology will be explored in a clinical trial setting in Canada.

Reproducibility, data sharing, personal data privacy concerns and patient enrollment in clinical trials are a huge challenge to clinical research.[1] Blockchain technology offers the opportunity to increase trust and transparency among stakeholders during clinical trial processes, especially when it comes to patient consent and data management. On a permissioned blockchain framework, proof of consent is accessible to authorized stakeholders, including patients who are empowered to maintain control over their consent. Smart contracts can be leveraged to enforce that trial participation and data collection or sharing is done with valid consent.

By reducing administrative errors and increasing trust and transparency through the application of blockchain technology, exchange of healthcare information could be more efficient. These improvements could help enhance patient care and reduce unnecessary costs.

We like to think of blockchain technology as a new operating system for trust. This collaboration is another great example of the ways stakeholders are coming together from across the healthcare and technology sectors to potentially improve informed consent, rights and safety of patients.

[1] BMC: https://trialsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13063-017-2035-z

Vice President, Medical and Regulatory Affairs, Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd.

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