Mount Sinai Health System is looking to take a lead role in finding ways that healthcare can use emerging blockchain solutions.

The New York-based integrated delivery system has launched the Center for Biomedical Blockchain Research to solve healthcare challenges using technology that underlies the Bitcoin cryptocurrency and provides a data structure that can be timed-stamped and signed using a private key.

“The center’s research will lay the groundwork for its forthcoming industry partnership program for companies looking to develop biomedical blockchain solutions that address problems in both clinical medicine and biomedical research,” according to the announcement.

In particular, the center will focus on developing apps by evaluating blockchain-enabled solutions, partnering with companies working on the technology, as well as building and testing systems within Mount Sinai.

The venture—managed by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the Institute for Next Generation Healthcare—is the first of its kind at an academic medical center, executives say.

The Center for Biomedical Blockchain Research will be headed by Joel Dudley, executive vice president of precision health at Mount Sinai and director of the Institute for Next Generation Healthcare, and Noah Zimmerman, assistant professor of genetics and genomic sciences and director of the Health Data and Design Innovation Center.

“We’re very early in the blockchain hype cycle and there are a lot of promises being made about how it will save healthcare,” says Zimmerman. “Fundamentally, for us, blockchain is about building large-scale open networks and incentivizing people to participate in them. That’s what really excites us.”

Also See: Vanderbilt leverages blockchain, FHIR for secure sharing of medical records

“We expect that some early use cases could emerge from areas where existing systems and approaches fall short,” said Dudley in a written statement. “The fragmented nature of regional and global healthcare systems prevents the flow of vital information and creates barriers to access for underserved groups. We see the potential for blockchain and related technologies to enable applications that support more unified healthcare ecosystems and serve the greater goals of realizing national and global precision health networks.”

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