A country in the Caucasus hopes to attract clinical research through the adoption of blockchain technology in its health system.
The government of Armenia said Tuesday that it would partner with the WHISE-Embleema Consortium – itself a partnership between New York-based healthcare blockchain technology company Embleema and the Wellness & Health Information Secure Exchange – to use blockchain to modernize digital healthcare in the country. The partnership, whose mission is to lay out a foundation for the collection of trustworthy health data, will operate under the guidance of the Armenian Ministry of Health.
Embleema Blockchain Consortium head Alexis Normand said in a statement that potential benefits from the partnership include offering physicians better access to health data and connecting Armenia to international research, especially in oncology, immunotherapy and molecular medicine. “By streamlining the collection and sharing of clinical information, while ensuring patient consent, we aim to accelerate the development of new drugs and improve the real-world data collection of marketed drugs,” he said.
At present, according to ClinicalTrials.gov, 15 industry-sponsored clinical trials are taking place in Armenia – meaning they are actively recruiting patients, are planned but have not yet begun recruiting, or are ongoing but have completed enrollment. A search on the site found no trials of popular immunotherapy cancer therapies – such as immune checkpoint inhibitors or CAR-Ts – currently underway in the country, industry-sponsored or otherwise, though it is possible such trials may be listed in other international registries. Embleema emerged from stealth mode and launched its blockchain-based health record system last July.
Blockchain technology has been touted as a potential means to safeguard the pharmaceutical supply chain and improve management of data in clinical trials. In February, German drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim and tech giant IBM partnered to study the use of the technology in clinical trials.
Under the partnership, WHISE-Embleema has established a nonprofit organization, WHISE-Armenia, which will audit existing digital and paper data systems and propose implementation of novel technologies for digital healthcare. It will set up multiple integrated health data hubs to allow medical organizations to integrate a variety of data sets in order to secure patient privacy while allowing patients, doctors and clinical organizations to remain in control of their data.
Adopting blockchain has the potential to improve transparency, trust and patient safety while attracting clinical research to Armenia, the government said. Meanwhile, patients are expected to benefit from access to real-time healthcare data in order to better inform research in high-prevalence disease areas, such as cancers and hematological diseases, immune system and endocrine disorders.
“All this implies a higher quality of data collection and its more accurate analysis,” Armenian Minister of Health Arsen Torosyan said in a statement. “As a result of the digitalization of health data, we expect improvement of healthcare quality and decline in comorbidity.”
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