Blockchain protocols in clinical trials: Transparency and traceability of consent

  • Benchoufi M
  • Porcher R
  • Ravaud P
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Clinical trial consent for protocols and their revisions should be transparent for patients and traceable for stakeholders. Our goal is to implement a process allowing for collection of patients’ informed consent, which is bound to protocol revisions, storing and tracking the consent in a secure, unfalsifiable and publicly verifiable way, and enabling the sharing of this information in real time. For that, we build a consent workflow using a trending technology called Blockchain. This is a distributed technology that brings a built-in layer of transparency and traceability. From a more general and prospective point of view, we believe Blockchain technology brings a paradigmatical shift to the entire clinical research field. We designed a Proof-of-Concept protocol consisting of time-stamping each step of the patient’s consent collection using Blockchain, thus archiving and historicising the consent through cryptographic validation in a securely unfalsifiable and transparent way. For each protocol revision, consent was sought again.  We obtained a single document, in an open format, that accounted for the whole consent collection process: a time-stamped consent status regarding each version of the protocol. This document cannot be corrupted and can be checked on any dedicated public website. It should be considered a robust proof of data. However, in a live clinical trial, the authentication system should be strengthened to remove the need for third parties, here trial stakeholders, and give participative control to the peer users. In the future, the complex data flow of a clinical trial could be tracked by using Blockchain, which core functionality, named Smart Contract, could help prevent clinical trial events not occurring in the correct chronological order, for example including patients before they consented or analysing case report form data before freezing the database. Globally, Blockchain could help with reliability, security, transparency and could be a consistent step toward reproducibility.




Benchoufi, M., Porcher, R., & Ravaud, P. (2018). Blockchain protocols in clinical trials: Transparency and traceability of consent. F1000Research, 6, 66.

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