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Blockchain gets a lot of hype, mostly because of the cryptocurrency market, but it’s a technology that can be used in an endless number of spaces. The real opportunity it represents is the trust and transparency it provides; to have data that is secure and cannot be tampered with or altered. In no other space are those qualities more important than healthcare, where data is literally life or death, and, yet, blockchain has not become as large a part of the healthcare space as you might expect.
That is where BurstIQ comes in; it provides a secure, HIPAA-compliant blockchain platform for the healthtech space, allowing its to customers use the platform for interoperability, granular consent, data marketplaces, analytics, IoT connectivity and personalized medicine.
“We started out with the basic premise that precision medicine and all the data created by it, coupled with next generation IoT and machine intelligence, is going to truly transform the healthcare engagement model to where health becomes an ‘every day, all the time’ experience,” Frank Ricotta, CEO of BurstIQ, told me in an interview.
“What was missing was an open and secure data platform that pulls all this data together and allows a person to truly own and control their health profile. When you look at the current environment, health data is locked in silos. We wanted to build the pathways that unlock that data and allow it to be accessible to the healthcare ecosystem – but do it in a person-centric way. From working with my medical professionals, to managing my chronic conditions, to participating in medical research, and, of course, my health and fitness, we want each person to sit at the center of their own health, not the periphery of it."
The BurstIQ platform allows health businesses to provide consumers with more control over their data, as well as the need to increase accessibility of that data for all the stakeholders who participate in the health ecosystem. The company positions its platform as a B2B blockchain enablement platform for large enterprises, digital health solution providers, life science and pharma companies, and government agencies, allowing these organizations to connect with each other and exchange data, while allowing individuals to manage how their own data is used and accessed across that ecosystem.
On Tuesday, the Denver-based company announced that it raised a $5.5 million Series A round of funding from Elsewhere Partners. BurstIQ had previously raised $425,000 in venture funding, making this its first major institutional funding round.
BurstIQ sees Elsewhere as more than an investor, Ricotta made clear to me; they see them as a key partner going forward.
“Anytime a company brings in a major investor at a pivotal growth point, that investor becomes a critical partner. Because we were revenue and cash-flow positive, we had the flexibility to be patient and hold out for the right partner. We were looking for a firm that would add value to the business in terms of the relationships they can bring forward to help us accelerate and grow our market presence. The Elsewhere team understands both blockchain and healthcare in a way that is rare in venture capital,” he said.
“Investors who are comfortable with healthcare may not be comfortable with some of the technical aspects of our platform, like the blockchain piece. And if they’re comfortable with the blockchain side of life, healthcare is a foreign domain. Whoever we partnered with had to be able to bridge both. Elsewhere has the talent and the relationships to do that."
Founded in 2015, BurstIQ builds health profiles of people, places and things by connecting data from all the disparate sources of that data. The platform then provides the mechanisms for those people, places and things to interact with each other, share and collaborate.
“We can handle any source of data and make it simple to access while putting each person in control of their own data,” Ricotta said.
The platform is used by hospitals and large healthcare systems, large enterprises, startups and government agencies. The company gained early traction by partnering with large enterprises such as Empiric Health, Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) and Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO).
Empiric Health, a company that is dedicated to eliminating unnecessary surgical costs, is the company’s “cornerstone use case," Ricotta said; the two entered into a partnership in 2017. Empiric is able to identify 20 to 25 percent cost savings within surgical workflow.
“Our stack enabled them to get to market faster by providing a plug-and-play HIPAA compliant data management layer and development frameworks. In addition, the platform allows them to execute advanced predictive modeling across datasets and customers while maintaining full regulatory compliance,” said Ricotta.
Unlike other startups in the space, including Guardtime and Hyperledger, which has a health initiative, and large, established players like IBM, Microsoft, Google, all of which have their own blockchain initiatives within the healthcare sector, what separates BurstIQ is its focus on “building a broad-based platform and an interconnectivity network, rather than bringing single-sector applications to market,” said Ricotta.
“The BurstIQ platform lets you do things that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do within current application development environments. We provide an interconnectivity framework to allows for the exchange data across applications and allows for people to manage their data,” he told me.
The company, which has been cash-flow positive and profitable for the past 18 months, is going to use the new funding to scale the company; that means, in part, expanding the number of employees from the low teens to the mid-30s in the next year, though the exact number will partially depend on how some of its partnerships come together in that time.
“We process billions of transactions through the platform, so we know the base platform works. Now it’s time to scale it. We are at that tipping point where the company will significantly accelerate its growth over the next year. To support that growth, we are going to grow the business development team and our community team, building communities and ecosystems on the global network,” said Ricotta.
While Ricotta admits that “blockchain” is often used as a buzzword in the tech world, he considers it a good buzzword, as “Blockchain opens the possibility of entirely new health economies – new products and services and monetization opportunities that have never been possible before. It gets people thinking differently, and it creates an opening for innovation.”
“The true innovation of blockchain is not the ledger. It’s the whole trust establishment. Can I trust that piece of data? Can I trust the person who is on the other end of this transaction? That’s pretty key,” he said, explaining that the ability to trust the source and authenticity of data is critical in healthcare, where life-and-death decisions depend on whether the right data is accessible at the right time, and whether that data is trustworthy or not," he said.
According to Ricotta, giving people access to their records so they can take them from doctor to doctor is necessary, but it’s not enough; the true disruption occurs with the ability to make that data actionable for the person, for their provider, and for the ecosystem of researchers, B2B services, AI tools, decision support systems and consumer products that all contribute to delivering on the promise of truly person-centric care.
“We are moving health towards a true access-based economy, where I have 24/7 access to care as well as access to tools and capabilities that allow me to make smarter choices and access personalized services. In health, everybody talks about person-centric care, but blockchain is the critical piece that truly allows us to achieve person-centric, holistic health.”
For BurstIQ, success going forward isn’t just a numbers game, Ricotta explained. Success for the company means being the most trusted health data platform in the world, and it means being the platform that allows health companies to finally achieve the promise of person-centric healthcare and empowers people with the tools and insights to live their healthiest, best life.
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