One of the world’s top medical institutions is exploring ways to store patient data on a blockchain. The Mayo Clinic, ranked one of the world’s top teaching hospitals, has signed a joint working agreement with a London-based startup to “explore the potential benefits of blockchain technology in healthcare.”
The partnership was revealed in a press release by Medicalchain, a startup whose primary goal is to describes itself as “a decentralised platform that enables secure and transparent exchange and usage of health records.” By connecting medical records to a blockchain, the firm says, “patients will be empowered” to control which medical professionals have access to which records.
“Medicine is being democratised,” the company says in its white paper, and the telemedicine platform will improve patient mobility and allow access to a wider range of professionals. Patient data will not be stored on a blockchain; rather, the platform will give patients control over blockchain-based pointers. By giving their doctors access, doctors will be able to use those links to access encrypted patient data stored on hospital or university servers.
Among Medicalchain’s long term projects is development of MyClinic, an online video-streaming platform to bring doctors and patients (virtually) face to face. Although telemedicine is not a new phenomenon, the lack of access to patient records has hindered online consultations for some time, Medicalchain says.
On a blockchain-connected platform, however, “Patients would grant access to their records during the telemedicine consultations, allowing for a more in-depth, informative, and valuable experience for both the patient and doctor.”
A pilot for the Medicalchain blockchain will be launched next month, in collaboration with the Groves Medical Group. The Groves Group comprises four London-based General Practitioners with around 30,000 patients in all.
In the more distant future, the company may also introduce a marketplace for data, allowing patients to share their records in exchange for cryptocurrency.
It’s not known how deep the partnership with Mayo Clinic goes, but it may represent a promising step for medical blockchains. “We are thrilled to be working with Mayo Clinic,” said Medicalchain CEO Dr. Abdullah Albeyatti. “Mayo Clinic will provide their world-class healthcare and health IT expertise, while Medicalchain will provide our knowledge of blockchain and crypto. Together we will work on several use cases using blockchain based electronic health records.”
Although the Mayo Clinic has not issued its own press release, the research hospital has hinted at its interest in blockchain tech before. “Anyone who has recently applied for medical licenses in multiple states or gone through the process of applying for hospital privileges will be able to appreciate” the transparency of blockchain technology, Dr. Eric Funk wrote in a blog post last week. “There will be easily accessible proof of completing a degree, diplomas, certifications in other states, procedure logs, etc… rather than trusting unverified information coming from various sources.”
Medicalchain’s not the only company exploring blockchain applications for medicine. Walmart has recently filed three patents for blockchain-based systems for patient information, including wearable hardware which can be accessed by first responders. The MediLedger project, launched last year, offers a supply-chain system to track prescription drugs from the factory to the patient.
Disclaimer: The author is invested in cryptocurrency coins and tokens not mentioned in this article.