Garvan Institute to Explore Blockchain Usage For Ensuring Greater Consumer Control Over Health Data

Top Australian biomedical research institute teams up with start-up E-Nome to investigate blockchain usage for secure storage and sharing of medical information.

Australia’s leading medical research organization, the Garvan Institute, has partnered with start-up E-Nome to research blockchain technology’s potential for empowering consumers by enabling them to obtain control of their own medical history and health data.

As reported by Financial Review, the two parties signed an MOU with the express intent of collaborating in order to apply E-Nome’s blockchain-based health record management platform for secure genomic information storage, and the gathering and management of research data. In addition, the partnership will focus on enabling citizens to easily access and control their own medical information.

Professor John Mattick, Executive Director of the Garvan Institute, said the healthcare sector was lagging behind in terms of new technologies, and there was a need for a major paradigm shift. He pointed out that a new era of precision medicine was emerging, which would bring with it an increased demand among citizens for greater control over their own medical data.

“If you start to intersect with new social trends, I think that people will want more control over their own personal data and more access to it. It drives me crazy that I don't have all my personal records on my smartphone and I can't just walk into a physician and have them download it … We're talking about a new data ecology that will be person-centric … and one in which current data structures aren't suited to serve.”

E-nome is particularly suited to helping Garvan Institute realize this vision. Founded by Nick Curtis, an ex-investment banker turned mining entrepreneur, the platform is nearing the beta testing stage. It is focused on enabling individuals to take control of their own health data and medical history, and easily share it with hospitals and healthcare providers.

In addition, the blockchain-based platform also has potential commercial applications. Individuals can use it to anonymously share data for medical researches, as well as sign up with companies who are willing to pay people for participating in trials.

Commenting on blockchain tech’s disruptive potential in the current scenario, Curtis said:

“There is already a $22 billion a year health data exchange market globally. It's happening already without the consumer whose data it is getting any share of it. At the moment it's large-scale, anonymised data sets. We see it as time to disintermediate that.”

The application of blockchain tech to the healthcare sector is not new; last month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a partnership with IBM to explore the uses of distributed ledger technology for medical data management.