Collecting, securing, managing and making effective use of health information remains a problem globally. While this applies to every aspect of healthcare, including drug production, clinical research and trials, analysis of treatments, identification of health trends, etc., it is most visible for electronic health records (EHR). EHRs hold the promise of making it easier to capture, access and use health information. In practice, EHRs are failing to deliver this goal and face and present several challenges.
Some advanced nations such as the USA and UK have wide adoption of EHR systems but there are significant problems with EHR usability and interoperability and health data is highly fragmented and lacks correctness and consistency. Underprivileged and developing nations on the other hand simply cannot afford the cost of implementing prevalent EHR solutions.
EHR platforms have almost universally been developed as provider-centric enterprise systems for their organizations or medical departments. Numerous (as many as 1000+) different EHR software packages and different versions of the same software package are tailored to implement the specific requirements of independent enterprises. This has resulted in siloed systems that are hard to integrate due to differences in data structures, software, processes, and the complexity and sensitivity of the information that comprises EHRs.
This causes patient frustration and dis-engagement as they cannot access and manage their own health information, while the manual overhead of maintaining EHRs and coordinating them across disparate systems is contributing to an increased rate of physician frustration and overheads. Indeed, EHRs are cited as a major reason for causing physician burnout! A troubling trend given the lack of qualified physicians required to meet healthcare needs globally.
What chances of success would you give a plan that requires thousands of complex, independent enterprises to integrate with each other and then remain in sync as their businesses evolve and change over time? Yet, that is the situation in which the Healthcare industry finds itself with regard to achieving interoperability between the EHR systems of disparate hospitals and clinical practices.
This traditional approach to implement customized EHR packages for enterprises and then spending extensive amounts of time, effort and money in trying to integrate these siloed enterprise solutions is failing. The global expenditure for EHR will exceed $33.4 billion per year by 2025, and this is for an approach that does not empower patients, alienates and frustrates physicians, and is prohibitively expensive.
Underprivileged and developing nations simply cannot afford these prohibitively high costs. As an example, a study conducted in India in 2016 indicated that EHR software must be open source to reduce costs and enable its widespread adoption across the country.
The Universal Health Information Network (UNHIN) is taking a fresh look at a solution to this problem. It distinguishes the EHR information for patients from the enterprise information for hospitals and clinical practices. The enterprise information such as billing, claims, costs, salaries, etc. should remain solely with the enterprise, while the medical information for patients in EHRs is not enterprise information at all. It is the information of individual patients to whom the each record belongs.
The UNHIN will implement a decentralized, secure, patient-centric information network for healthcare. It will provide patients access to and control over their health information in their “health wallet”. Any provider that interacts with a patient can simply submit the patient’s information into the network, and UNHIN will take care of securing it, routing it to the appropriate patient’s wallet and storing it in such a way that only that patient can access the information and authorize others to access or use it. The health information for an individual is centered on that individual, and any healthcare provider requiring that information can simply access it from the UNHIN with due authorization from the individual, without having to integrate with any other healthcare organization.
The UNHIN achieves this by applying decentralized computing, including blockchain technology to establish an open, secure and universally available network for collecting, securing and managing health information. It overcomes and resolves the numerous challenges (including the high costs) related to managing health information and transform the way Electronic Health Records (EHR) are implemented.
The UNHIN is designed to solve this problem at a global scale that will make affordable EHR available to all geographical regions and economic levels across the world. The UNHIN will empower patients and physicians, reduce physician overheads, minimize costs and provide patient-centric managed access to health information in a way that does not exist today.
The UNHIN is completely open source and wholly community driven. It’s blockchain network implements its own token economy that allows it to be economically self-sustaining and free of any commercial enterprise, paid for by the global community, and owned and operated by the global community.
This means that the UNHIN will be free of the usual commercial pressures that currently drive the industry so that it is able to do the “right thing” from a patient and physician perspective and focus on the goal of enabling “healthcare as a universal human right.”
The UNHIN implements a healthcare oriented decentralized storage network that cryptographically secures and shreds all information making it both unidentifiable and unintelligible. It adds to this a “proof of stake” based, multi-tier Blockchain that obfuscates all transactions while implementing a public network, thus preventing anyone from identifying any healthcare transactions.
The decentralized storage network and blockchain combine to implement a decentralized platform that meets or exceeds prevalent standards such as HIPAA. It implements a patient-centric model in which each patient owns and manages their health record. Healthcare organizations, physicians and other entities in the healthcare ecosystem interact with the UNHIN to access and update information as authorized by patients.
The UNHIN implements a native blockchain with its own network economy that incentivizes individuals and organizations to join the network. Network members interact more effectively with healthcare information and also earn tokens for providing various services to the network. For example, Blockchain nodes are rewarded with tokens for confirming transactions. Storage nodes earn tokens for providing secure storage to the healthcare network. Masternodes are rewarded with tokens for providing several healthcare-oriented services such as providing healthcare organizations and their practitioners with secure access to emergency records, requesting people for access to their information for medical studies, providing aggregated de-identified health information to support medical research, and more.
The UNHIN network will be ever present and free to use, while supporting its development and maintenance perpetually via its native network-economy. It will have several transformational impacts. For example, patients will own and manage their health records. Any time information is submitted to the UNHIN, it will be automatically secured and stored so that it can never be lost, and no one except its owner can access, manage and authorize it. Healthcare organization running masternodes will actually “earn tokens” to join the UNHIN, as opposed to having to pay money for implementing a traditional EHR system, and a lot more.
The UNHIN is implementing a truly suitable use case for blockchain. It is the kind of project required for blockchain to deliver on its promise and get wide ranging, global adoption, providing people a real reason to use its token for healthcare services. This will make the UNHIN token widely adopted and truly valuable the world over, and completely transform the healthcare ecosystem.
The UNHIN can solve the health information related issues we are facing globally and help improve and save thousands of lives on a day to day basis.
By- Shubh Singh
( Founder & CEO at New Fields Technologies, Program Director for the UNHIN)