Mount Sinai Bets Big On Blockchain To Transform Healthcare Industry

biomedical blockchain
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Nephron

Center for Biomedical Blockchain Research

The landscape of the biomedicine and healthcare industry is poised to transform, with the incremental interest from investors and developers to make use of blockchain to make the industry more efficient and transparent. Despite the influx of hundreds of millions of dollars in blockchain-powered healthcare products, there hasn’t been much progress in the space.

After infiltrating numerous healthcare startups, blockchain has caught the interest of two of the most renowned healthcare institutions in the US: the Mayo Clinic and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS), being the latest of the two projects.

Healthcare Analytics News reported the ISMMS, a New York City-based medical school has launched the Center for Biomedical Blockchain Research, the first academic center focusing on blockchain in healthcare, via a partnership with the Mount Sinai Institute for Next Generation Healthcare, a medical lab that research on application of artificial intelligence (AI), genomic sequencing, robotics, and sensors in medicine.

Mount Sinai Health System Executive Vice President of Precision Health, Joel Dudley Ph.D., and ISMMS Director of Health Data and Design Innovation Center, Noah ZimmermanPh.D lead this unique academic nucleus. Together, Dr. Dudley and Dr. Zimmerman will research on how machine intelligence and data-driven approach could improve biology and healthcare, supplementing Dr. Dudley’s prior work in which he used electronic health record (EHR), wearable device, and big data to develop predictive health apps.

The Center for Biomedical Blockchain Research will evaluate blockchain-backed solutions, offer consultation and partnership opportunities to firms working on similar projects, as well as develop and test its own technologies at the Mount Sinai Health System. Potential applications that the center will be working on include clinical trials, drug development, increasing healthcare insurance access, enhancing research reproducibility, and improving quality control in the medicines to fight counterfeiting.

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Image credit: Screen shot/Center for Biomedical
Blockchain Research

Innovating the Sector

Although several entrepreneurs have strived to make use of the power of blockchain to bring innovation to the healthcare sector, they have been unsuccessful in developing even a single application that could be meaningful. ISMMS believes that the initiative could be a key incubator.

“There is a lot of excitement around the possibilities for blockchain technology in healthcare. However, we still have lots of hard work ahead to identify the most salient features of blockchain technologies to solve real-world healthcare problems,” says Dudley in the press release.

Blockchain gained spotlight with the success of Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency to use the decentralized, immutable, secure ledger. Since it offers no option to remove or change and involves a peer-to-peer replication process, blockchain has generated traction in various industries, including healthcare.

Dr. Dudley acknowledges the power of blockchain and expects the technology could provide the first proven application for the industry, given the challenges that the sector challenges and technology’s potential. He highlighted that the healthcare industry in North American, as well as the entire planet, is “fragmented” that put a stop to the information flow and forms obstacles to offer services in the underserved area.

The executive vice president believes that the use of blockchain and related technologies can facilitate the development of applications that “support more unified healthcare ecosystems and serve the greater goals of realizing national and global precision health networks.”

On the other hand, Dr. Zimmerman expects the center to achieve its objectives on the back of Mount Sinai’s experience in biomedical data, data governance, and machine learning. This will enable them to effectively use blockchain to reduce cost and improve delivery in the healthcare space.

Just a few years before the ISMMS’s announcement, Mayo Clinic, a Rochester-based non-profit academic medical center, entered into a partnership with Medicalchain, a British tech startup, to explore how blockchain can bring innovation into healthcare, especially EHR and patient care. We may see collaboration between Mayo Clinic and ISMMS in the near future.

According to STAT, about 150 projects in the healthcare industry have raised over $660 million through professional investors like venture capitalists, angel investors and private investors, and initial coin offering (ICO). BIS Research estimates blockchain-powered healthcare applications to attract more than $5.6 billion by 2025. Over the same time frame, Statista projects 55% of the healthcare applications to be driven by blockchain for commercial purposes.


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