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Startup Using Blockchain for Vital Records Gets First Client

Vital Chain, a Cleveland-based startup that uses blockchain technology to create a secure way of digitizing and cataloguing birth and death certificates, is the second of parent company Ownum’s product launches.

A medical professional takes a baby's footprint
<a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/pediatrician-take-footprint-od-newborn-baby-1406468309" target="_blank">Shutterstock/PixieMe</a>
One of the early suggested use cases for blockchain in government, the digitization of birth and death certificates, won a customer and an investor last week.

Vital Chain, a Cleveland blockchain startup, announced it will partner with Cuyahoga County, Ohio's MetroHealth System as its first client, with investment from Medici Ventures, a blockchain-focused venture arm of Overstock.com that will work with Vital Chain on product development.

Vital Chain's news release said it will work with the MetroHealth System to finish building and testing its product for wider use in the future. Proponents of blockchain say its encryption methods are secure enough to permit the digitization of sensitive records, hence Vital Chain's self-titled technology for birth and death certificates proposes to replace a potentially slow, paper-based system without dramatically increasing cybersecurity risks.

According to Vital Chain's website, the U.S. records about 3.9 million births and 2.7 million deaths a year on paper. The company is touting its product as a way to lower labor costs associated with processing and keeping these documents, automate and expedite the process of filling them out, send quick notifications to relevant parties and make it easier for hospitals to mine data related to births and deaths.

"Vital Chain will significantly enhance the birth registry and death certification process by making it quicker, more efficient and less intrusive," said Jonathan Johnson, CEO of Overstock and president of Medici Ventures, in a statement. "This is squarely aligned with Medici Ventures" vision of eliminating middlemen in transactions and re-humanizing commerce through the use of blockchain technology."

With an estimated population north of 1.2 million, Cuyahoga County contains Cleveland, which has been a hub of blockchain activity in recent years.

Vital Chain is a subsidiary of Ownum, a Cleveland-based blockchain holding company whose portfolio also includes three other startups developing paperless blockchain solutions for government: CHAMPtitles, DigiCredits and Tech Tags. CHAMPtitles, a blockchain portal for processing vehicle titles, became Ownum's first product launch a year ago. The other two, intended for transferring tax credits and keeping track of vehicle taxes and fees, are still in the works.

According to Vital Chain's news release, Cuyahoga County's public health system, called the MetroHealth System, consists of some 8,000 staff at four hospitals, four emergency departments, more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites, with a new hospital soon to be added to its main campus in Cleveland. MetroHealth President and CEO Dr. Akram Boutros said in a statement that Vital Chain's technology could be immediately useful, especially if it results in quicker access to more comprehensive data related to births and deaths.

"Expeditious access to verified accurate information for birth and death certificates will be a huge leap for public health efforts, such as those designed to combat infant mortality," he said. "The months of delay in obtaining reliable data slows down efforts in assessing the impact of various public health initiatives. For instance, this type of system would provide critical information in the event the U.S. faced widespread transmission of COVID-19."

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