Medical applications of distributed ledger technology have thus far centered on electronic health records, but two companies are working on a blockchain solution to improve the process of managing consent from patients who participate in clinical research studies. The companies are Bitfury and Longenesis; the former is a major provider of blockchain solutions while the latter develops an artificial intelligence platform focused on medical data storage and processing.

Gaining consent from patients who agree to participate in medical research studies is something that largely involves paper documents, and it is generally an easy process despite numerous disclosures and bureaucratic steps that must be followed. Things get more complicated once patients need to modify their consent agreements; in some cases, documents are not properly transferred when research projects are shifted from one organization to another, and there are also issues related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act once consent documents are converted into digital formats. Insofar as European patients and research teams, the General Data Protection Regulation also places constraints in the consent management process.

What the Bitfury and Longenesis partnership aims to develop is a blockchain system that grants patients ownership of the consents they provide. The smart contract feature of blockchain technology provides the security and recording measures that consent documents should always have, and the distributed ledger makes it easy for regulators to conduct auditing processes. As can be imagined, patient information should be closely guarded when it is part of clinical research studies, and this is something that both companies are seeking to improve with their newly formed partnership.

The blockchain platform that Bitfury is providing in this partnership is known as Exonum. In essence, Exonum allows organizations to treat digital records as tokens that can be securely exchanged; the platform can be used for smart contracts or currency applications. It is interesting to note that Exonum is actually based on the legacy Bitcoin blockchain, which has not experienced as much adoption as the rival Ethereum platform. The algorithms used Exonum are far more powerful and efficient than those currently used by the Bitcoin blockchain.