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A cryptocurrency startup that received $24 million in funding through an initial coin offering has launched a pilot program in the U.K. that aims at demonstrating the effectiveness of blockchain technology in healthcare.
Under examination is MyClinic.com, a telemedicine application powered by Medicalchain, a blockchain platform that enables the secure exchange of medical records between patients and doctors.
Medicalchain is built on Hyperledger Fabric, an open source blockchain framework. "We decided to go down this route because healthcare is complicated as it is," said Mo Tayeb, Medicalchain co-founder and COO. "If we tried to build a blockchain from scratch, and tried to integrate with healthcare companies, it's quite a lot of work."
Hyperledger is being used in conjunction with OpenEHR, "a framework for open sourcing the way health records are stored," Tayeb said, "so that if you move them from one hospital or organization to another they can be understood."
'MyClinic.com is a perfect fit'
Participating in the MyClinic.com pilot program is The Groves Medical Group, a collection of four medical centers, whose patients will be able to choose a physician, schedule a video consultation and pay for medical services using MedTokens, the cryptocurrency that helped launch Medicalchain.
"MyClinic.com is a perfect fit for our practice," said Vince Grippaudo, a physician and senior partner at The Groves, "as it allows patients to quickly book appointments on their mobile app, see their doctor from any location and gain access to their appointment reports following each consultation."
Grippaudo said phase one of the pilot program "will focus on improving patients' access to remote services and cutting down administration time for both clinicians and admin staff. Following phase one, we will provide feedback to help Medicalchain refine and develop the MyClinic.com product. The next version will integrate a range of blockchain-secured services that can be accessed by patients remotely and securely."
The objective of the pilot program with The Groves "is to test our technology and to test the way it works as well," Tayeb said, "because many of the current telemedicine applications out there don't work in this fashion.
"You say, 'I want to speak to a doctor,' and the company behind the application chooses a doctor for you. The idea behind MyClinic is that you have more choice. The payment with cryptocurrency is to enable a borderless society with access to healthcare ... so that anyone around the world can pay with cryptocurrency and speak to a doctor of their choice."
MedTokens fuel the blockchain ecosystem
The MedTokens "are effectively the fuel of this ecosystem we are building," Tayeb said, "where all these different applications use the tokens to transaction with the doctor of their choice and effectively pay them for their consultation."
People will purchase MedTokens on an exchange or on MyClinic.com when it goes live sometime in August. "They are like credits on the platform," Tayeb said. "You need a certain number of credits to be able to speak to a doctor. You either already have them and you can deposit them, or, if you don't have them, you can buy them with a credit card."
In addition to the telemedicine application pilot program with The Groves, Medicalchain is working with Mayo Clinic in the U.S. and the National Health Service (NHS) in the U.K.
Tayeb said Mayo Clinic and Medicalchain are exploring ways to collaborate. "Mayo Clinic is keen to work in the blockchain space, but they don't necessarily have all the resources they need, all the expertise," he said. "We have blockchain development expertise, but they have access to healthcare data. The two marry up quite nicely."
A spokesperson for Mayo Clinic said in an email that "explorations are in very early stages and we do not have any more details to share at this point." The spokesperson noted that Mayo Clinic "is not looking for ways to use the blockchain technology to secure electronic health records at Mayo Clinic." The Mayo Clinic's Rochester, Minn., campus went live with Epic EHR in early May.
NHS working with Medicalchain
In the U.K., Medicalchain is integrating with two main NHS systems "which cover more than 90% of the population," Tayeb said. NHS executives are realizing, Tayeb said, "if patients had more ownership of their health records ... you would have less errors and patients could look after themselves better. NHS is encouraging the movement of patient empowerment."
Tayeb expects the two integrations "will be finished by the end of the year, and then we'll invite people to request their health records and have a synchronized version on their mobile app, which is stored on the blockchain." Access to health records, he said, will be offered for free.
If Tayeb's vision for Medicalchain unfolds, MyClinic.com will be only the first of many telemedicine applications built on top of Medicalchain. "We've released an API for some of the Hyperledger configurations we've done," he said. "We welcome development of applications that will interact with Medicalchain.
"Next year we're looking to create a healthcare marketplace so that patients who have access to their health records can share them with research institutions that may want to pay them for access to their health records. We also want to launch an anonymous genomic testing application."
The ultimate goal of Medicalchain, Tayeb said, is "to create a borderless society where people can benefit from access to healthcare wherever they are in the world."