Imagine trying to piece together your complete medical history. Would you even know where to look? Would the process of obtaining records from your childhood pediatrician be the same getting them from your current dermatologist?
Healthcare records at different doctors’ offices tend to be siloed off from each other and aren’t immediately accessible to all patients. Medblox, a Riverside, Iowa, startup, hopes to decentralize medical record storage and give more control to the patients.
How Medblox works
In 2016 alone, the personal medical records of more than 25 million patients were compromised. In February of this year, MedBlox co-founders Todd R. Chamberlain and Somchai Rice began working on ways to protect that information and prevent it from being leaked to the world.
They believe MedBlox is the platform to do that, using blockchain technology to link, encrypt and protect records, similar to how it is used for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
“There’s not really a holistic view of patient’s medical records currently,” said MedBlox CEO Chamberlain. “They exist in facilities you visit; you’ll never know what a complete view of your record is. With there being a lot of upheaval going on in healthcare this year, we saw the opportunity to provide true value to patients with a new approach to medical records that hadn’t been explored.”
Other factors, like the European Union’s implementation of General Data Protection Regulation in May, also played a part. Among other features, the GDPR is intended to give citizens control of their personal information and states businesses processing personal information must store it using anonymization.
Rice experienced issues with the siloing of medical records when her child had an accident that required a trip to the Mayo Clinic.
“Since records are so segmented and owned by each facility, we didn’t have a complete medical record when we went up there,” Rice said. “It’s a way to empower patients, but how can they do that if they don’t own the rights to their own records?”
The team is starting by focusing on academic medical centers and small regional clinics. They hope MedBlox will show medical professionals that by shifting the liability of storing personal health records away from their clinics, that they’ll be able to focus more on being healthcare providers and less on being gatekeepers of sensitive information.
No more implementing of yesterday’s technology tomorrow
The above line is a paraphrasing of Wayne Smith, senior director of IT at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The medical field can be slow to act on new practices, but Chamberlain and Rice hope that the idea behind MedBlox will prompt quicker movement from doctors and hospital staff.
“We’ve validated a couple of our processes as being novel and unique, so we’ll be able to patent them,” Chamberlain said. “We’re also validating that our process is HIPPA compliant, and that it will allow doctors to comply with the GDPR going forward.
In the waiting room
Over the next six months, the company plans to start its funding cycle and will be working out bugs with their MedBlox app, with the hope of ironing out any problems in time for a launch next summer.
In five years, Chamberlain hopes MedBlox will be the framework that healthcare data lives on.
“People are starting to question where the sovereignty of the data lies,” Chamberlain said. “It felt like it was time to start having this conversation.”
Joe Lawler is a freelance reporter based in Des Moines.
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