IBM Watson Health Signed Agreement with CDC to Research Blockchain

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by Andy Watson · 3 min read
IBM Watson Health Signed Agreement with CDC to Research Blockchain
Photo: Daiji Hirata / Flickr

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and IBM Watson Health will collaborate to apply blockchain technology to harness data.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has signed an agreement with IBM Watson Health to research the use of blockchain for storing and exchanging medical data. It is necessary to clarify that the CDC is the leading national public health institute of the United States. IBM Watson Health is a part of IBM and its activities are aimed at improving healthcare.

Over the last several years blockchain has begun gaining traction for applications in other areas requiring high levels of security. The need for applying it is determined by the necessity to protect data. The CDC has been running proof-of-concept trials on blockchain technology this year in the hopes of finding more efficient and secure ways to harness data and expedite federal reaction to health crises and threats.

Shahram Ebadollahi, Chief Science Officer at IBM, said:

“Blockchain is very useful when there are so many actors in the system. It enables the ecosystem of data in healthcare to have more fluidity, and AI [artifical intelligence] allows us to extract insights from the data. Everybody talks about Big Data in healthcare but I think the more important thing is Long Data.”

Kyu Rhee, Chief Health Officer at IBM, said: “There are more than 8,000 healthcare publications each day. Nobody can keep up. We need a system to translate all the data into key insights that can be applied to a patient, and that’s where AI systems can support a clinician.”

Rhee said he believes AI applications in healthcare will eventually enable consumers to purchase a home health system as easily as they can now acquire a home security system.  He declared:

“Think about where we were with the internet in 1993. That’s about where we are today with AI.”

The activity of Watson Health, and IBM more broadly, is based on three principles in the exploration of Artificial intelligence applications. First, the purpose of AI is to help, not replace, humans. Second is transparency. And the third principle is to help encourage the development of new skills.

Concerning this question, Rhee also added:

“The AI revolution is going to create a lot of new-collar jobs. The standard physician’s team will likely include a data scientist in the future.”

It is necessary to note, that in January of 2017 IBM Watson Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signed a two-year agreement aimed at the development of secure blockchain-based ways to exchange health data. IBM and the FDA explore the exchange of owner-mediated data from several sources, such as Electronic Medical Records, clinical trials, genomic data, and health data from mobile devices, wearables and the “Internet of Things.”

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