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Blockchain EHR Startup Taps IBM Tech to Boost Patient Data Ownership


How MedChain and Cognition Foundry also hope to spur new medical research.

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MedChain, a startup that uses blockchain to improve electronic health records (EHRs), is partnering with an IBM business partner called Cognition Foundry in hopes of leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to better enable patients to control their medical data and EHR companies to develop new apps.

The move further merges blockchain with IBM-built technology for healthcare — in this case, IBM LinuxONE, an enterprise server built on mainframe technology. The move allows the MedChain Network to serve as a “blockchain and analytics solution” that will soon support millions of data transactions between patients and outside parties, such as physicians, health systems and researchers, according to the announcement.

>> READ: Mayo Clinic Is Partnering With a Startup to Make Blockchain Work for Healthcare

In short, the union represents yet another potential real-world application for blockchain in healthcare. Although startups and legacy companies alike have touted the promise of the technology in this space, no scalable use case has yet emerged from the sea of hype.

The partnership also pushes MedChain, which was founded last fall, to its second phase of growth. To this point, the company has focused on storing and managing EHRs. Now, it plans to bring in “data-intensive AI and deep learning” to analyze the data — information that can be accessed only after patients agree to its use in research.

“Over the years, this opt-in process will yield petabytes of full lifetimes of contiguous data,” MedChain’s chief technology officer, Steve Wishstar, said in a statement. “The effect of having each patient’s data accessible by all care providers means new discoveries can be made based on the ‘holistic’ view of each and every procedure or medication taken.”

The open-source Medchain Network is governed and secured by several blockchains, using a multi-crypto-token design. It provides EHR companies the chance to develop privacy law-compliant decentralized apps, subsequently empowering patients, according to MedChain.

LinuxONE, meanwhile, fosters “pervasive encryption,” safeguarding patients’ protected health information, according to Cognition Foundry.

“As a service provider, IBM LinuxONE allows us to quickly set up a complete IT infrastructure capable of supporting millions of transacations for clients like MedChain,” noted Ron Argent, who heads Cognition Foundry.

The goals of this collaboration: stronger data ownership and better treatments for patients. But only time will tell whether they are realized.

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