Toronto hospital, IBM pilot blockchain app that allows patients to control who views their medical records

University Health Network in Toronto is partnering with technology leaders including IBM to test a blockchain-based mobile application that allows patients to grant access to their health data to anyone of their choosing, The Star reports.

The health system tapped IBM, eHealth and the Blockchain Research Institute for the project, which is currently in the trial stages, according to the March 4 report. The blockchain-based app will allow UHN patients to securely send a record of their health data to anyone they want, including their family members, physicians and medical researchers.

"Blockchain creates the ability to grant trusted access, and audit it," said David Wiljer, MD, executive director of education technology innovation at UHN, according to the report. "There's a record created of exactly who accessed the data, when and why."

Blockchain technology provides more security than traditional record-keeping systems because it creates a record of the data and then sends that record to trusted computer servers or "nodes," according to the report. The blocks of data are sent to various nodes, which makes it more difficult for hackers to alter the records.

The app will only offer access to UHN-produced data once it's fully up and running, but Dr. Wiljer told the publication he sees potential for similar technology to give patients the opportunity to control access to their data and see it all in one place. Blockchain can help streamline the individual patient data sharing process, especially in areas such as medical research, where it can be time consuming to get individual consent and share the data with researchers.

"It’s not really feasible to do that individually," Dr. Wiljer said. "Whereas if you had a transaction-trusted network … you could reach out to patients and say 'hey, we have this research study, are you interested?' They could give permission for a time-limited period."

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