The investigation of the practical use of blockchain technology in healthcare received a major endorsement this week, as the Mayo Clinic entered into an agreement with a United Kingdom firm to work on potential future applications within healthcare.

Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo signed a joint working agreement with Medicalchain, under which the partners will collaborate on initiatives to “explore the potential benefits of blockchain technology in healthcare.”

Blockchain technology has emerged in the last couple years, with its unique capabilities showing potential to solve nagging problems in healthcare and other industries. It is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties in a verifiable and permanent way; records can be securely stored and shared, protected from deletion, tampering and revision.

The technology supports bitcoin and other virtual currencies and is being used for some applications in other industries; it’s use within healthcare is limited and early. The Mayo-Medicalchain partnership hopes to advance that research along.

Also See: Mayo Clinic Rochester campus set to go live May 5 with Epic

The organizations say they have a vision to develop a variety of services for the healthcare industry in the future.

“We are thrilled to be working with the Mayo Clinic,” says Abdullah Albeyatti, MD, CEO of Medicalchain. “Mayo Clinic will provide their world-class healthcare and health IT expertise, while Medicalchain will provide our knowledge of blockchain and crypto. Together, we will work on several use cases using blockchain-based electronic health records. There’s a lot of opportunity out there, and we feel this working agreement will be of benefit to all healthcare stakeholders.”

Medicalchain bills itself as company that is using blockchain technology “to securely store health records and maintain a single version of the truth,” with a focus on electronic health records. It’s recently entered into a partnership with The Groves Medical Group, a London-based physician practice that it says will be the first medical practice in the UK to use blockchain technology and to accept cryptocurrency as payment for health services at its four locations.

The pilot program with The Groves will begin in July and will be the first application for Medicalchain’s platform. It will use “open source blockchain technology that allows patients to take full control of their healthcare records … and will provide access to flexible telemedicine services.” The group practice has more than 30,000 registered patients.

A spokeswoman for the Mayo Clinic acknowledged the agreement, saying it’s intended to explore “various potential benefits of blockchain in healthcare, to bring efficiencies and strengthen security in data transactions.”

The agreement between the entities has just been signed, “so the explorations are in very early stages,” she said, and it was too early to determine where initial efforts will start.

The Mayo Clinic is in the midst of a massive rollout of patient record and revenue cycle management technology from Epic. It’s Rochester campus went live on the records system in May; it’s other sites in Minnesota began the transition to Epic technology last year, with the total contract cost for the technology estimated at $1.5 billion.

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