Canberra-based software vendor Agile Digital has delivered a proof of concept (PoC) to the Department of Health in order to allow approved scientists to collaborate on public health research.
Agile Digital worked with Canberra-based cloud services wholesaler Vault Systems and the Australian Government.
By using Agile Digital's blockchain technology on Vault Systems' protected ASD-certified cloud, data scientists are able to analyse data from patients – who have previously approved this – in a secure cloud-based environment ensuring the patient's privacy.
During the PoC the Department of Health used Agile Digital's blockchain to record who accessed the data, what data was accessed, what questions researchers asked, and what answers they received in relation to the data extracted.
The Department of Health has committed to unlock public value through research which would entail granting researchers' access to patient health records. However this has to be done in a safe and confidential form.
In this PoC Agile Digital's technology proved scientists could send queries in order to obtain research data back but without seeing the data themselves.
Agile Digital executive director, David Elliot, explained to ARN that if someone "scrubs out the names, and birth dates", then someone smart enough is always going to find correlation between that information.
Furthermore, if someone scrubs the data so hard to prevent that, the data would become worthless. So by trusting the data to Vault's protected cloud and allowing researches to query the data proved a successful PoC.
The Department of Health was seeking to explore the creation of a data science lab environment that allowed researchers to extract critical data without having data leave its environment, and without risking re-identification of patient data.
According to the companies, this is understood to be the first blockchain implementation in the federal government.
“Data security is an important right that all Australians deserve, especially when it comes to their own medical records," Vault founder and CEO Rupert Taylor-Price said.
"The future medical breakthroughs could very well hang on finding a way to balance citizen’s medical data for science while still guaranteeing security is a priority.
"By capitalising on blockchain technology and ASD certified protected cloud, the Australian Government will possess the capabilities to analyse sensitive data for breakthrough research, while still complying with the Australian Government’s privacy and security standards."
The PoC was put together in the middle of 2017 and has recently been recognised with the iAward for Big Data Innovation of the Year on 17 May at the Australian Information Industry Association ACT gala dinner and awards.
Elliot told ARN that Agile Digital is in current talks with the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) for the possible use of this platform by other agencies in a research capacity.