Blockchain Native Data Linkage

James Cunningham, Gail Davidge, Nigel Davies, Sarah Devaney, Søren Holm, Mike Harding, Gary Leeming, Victoria Neumann, John Ainsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Data providers holding sensitive medical data often need to exchange data pertaining to patients for whom they hold particular data. This involves requesting information from other providers to augment the data they hold. However, revealing the superset of identifiers for which a provider requires information can, in itself, leak sensitive private data. Data linkage services exist to facilitate the exchange of anonymized identifiers between data providers. Reliance on third parties to provide these services still raises issues around the trust, privacy and security of such implementations. The rise and use of blockchain and distributed ledger technologies over the last decade has, alongside innovation and disruption in the financial sphere, also brought to the fore and refined the use of associated privacy-preserving cryptographic protocols and techniques. These techniques are now being adopted and used in fields removed from the original financial use cases. In this paper we present a combination of a blockchain-native auditing and trust-enabling environment alongside a query exchange protocol. This allows the exchange of sets of patient identifiers between data providers in such a way that only identifiers lying in the intersection of sets of identifiers are revealed and shared, allowing further secure and privacy-preserving exchange of medical information to be carried out between the two parties. We present the design and implementation of a system demonstrating the effectiveness of these exchange protocols giving a reference architecture for the implementation of such a system.
Original languageEnglish
Article number667388
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Blockchain
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2021


  • blockchain
  • data linkage
  • health informatics
  • distributed ledger technologies
  • digital health


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