Startup Insider: Facilitating interoperability, empowering patients with blockchain? MedBlox is doing it

Julie Spitzer - Print  | 

Sharing patient data in healthcare is no easy feat — in fact, one of the most common ways patients receive data is still the antiquated process of fax. However, startup MedBlox believes it has the interoperability solution the industry needs.

While HIPAA grants patients a right to their own health data, hospitals struggle to get it into their hands — especially in such a mobile society in which patients move across cities or states multiple times throughout their life.

"My well-child exams, immunizations and yearly physicals through high school reside in the clinic where I grew up. My EHRs throughout university reside in the student health center. My post-graduation EHRs reside in the facility in which I currently live," said Somchai Rice, co-founder and chief science officer at MedBlox. "My complete EHR does not exist! How can I take ownership of my medical care when everything is so disjointed?"

MedBlox is an interoperability platform backed by blockchain technology that helps facilitate the ownership of EHR data between the provider and the patient. The aim of the startup is to create a more patient-centric approach to healthcare and shift the regulatory and compliance burdens away from the provider.

Although the startup is in early stages — its presale offering launched in late July and its main offering will start Aug. 19  — its platform is slated to roll out in the second quarter of 2019.

Becker's Hospital Review caught up with Medblox co-founders, Ms. Rice and Todd Chamberlain, CEO, to learn more about MedBlox's inception and goals.

Editor's Note: Responses have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Question: What are the benefits of storing EHR data on the blockchain? How will it enhance interoperability?

Somchai Rice: An analogy for blockchain technology would be using a branded debit card from a US bank in Austria — or MedBlox — instead of exchanging U.S. dollars for Euros before your vacation — or faxed medical records between health systems. You don’t carry the money around with you during your entire vacation, you carry the current balance that is in your bank account. If your debit card is lost or stolen, there is a PIN, or personal identification number, that only you know so your money is not siphoned out of your account. This PIN is a string of characters, not correlated to any of your personal identifiable information, and mathematically difficult to guess. If you choose to operate within this economy, the incentive to participate is the generation of more MedBlox tokens, much like compounded interest.

Now an analogy for interoperability: Imagine you are forced to exclusively use one brand of card — Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express — as determined by the bank where your money resides. You find out the brand is not accepted at the point of purchase in your vacation destination, but this is realized only after you get there. That’s a problem, right? Now imagine if you have a universal card that is accepted all over the world by every merchant. Since this record of transactions is syndicated nationwide, possibly globally, it's where you need it, when you need it. This is MedBlox.

Q: Can you explain MedBlox's token sale? How does this process work and why did you take this approach?

Todd Chamberlain: MedBlox's token sale and funding strategy has been carefully tailored to re-enforce our platform's token economics, keeping the direction of the economy uninfluenced by any one entity. Every investor has an equal seat at the table.

On the token sale: Imagine there are two pizzas. The MedBlox tokens are uniform slices of pizza one. While 60 percent of the tokens are available for purchase one time only, 10 percent is held for futures development, 10 percent for marketing, 10 percent goes to the team, and 10 percent is saved for reserves. At the same time, the 60 percent of that pizza represents 100 percent of the second pizza. This second pizza also has uniform slices. Owning a MedBlox token or slice from pizza one grants you access to use of the platform, pizza two. The MedBlox token can be used to request access to a patient's EHR. For example, I want to give my provider access to my EHR. When this transaction is validated and permission is granted, the requesting provider exchanges a MedBloc token for a query. Economics will drive the value of each pizza slice. As demand for MedBlox increases, the value will of each MedBlox will increase. This is all made possible through use of blockchain technology and a proprietary blind ID transfer.

Q: What is the No. 1 challenge you've faced as a startup?

TC: The biggest challenge is finding mentors knowledgeable in the complex blend of regulation, security and business. We're doing something that hasn't been done before, we don't want to be blinded by hubris and lose sight of the patient's best interest.

To learn more about MedBlox, click here.

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