As part of IdentityNORTH’s mandate to promote Canadian innovations and organisations, we have launched the ‘Startup Spotlight.’ Proudly supported by TD Bank, this series shines a light on emerging Canadian companies who are driving innovation across the digital ID ecosystem.   

Health Chain

HealthChain is a medication management platform founded in 2017, based in Toronto. On a mission to improve healthcare “one link at a time,” HealthChain’s solution leverages blockchain technology to expedite a safe and secure end-to-end flow of medication information within healthcare. 

What’s the Story?

In brief, HealthChain is seeking to replace the fax machine as the predominant technology in healthcare. More specifically, the company is looking to digitize prescription data and ensure healthcare providers and patients have efficient, secure access to a patient’s medication profile while respecting the privacy of patients.

According to the HealthChain team, patients are spending too much time navigating the healthcare system, when they should be heavily involved in their own care. Their vision is to establish a collaborative platform for medication management, where doctors, pharmacies and patients are involved in the care provided and received.

HealthChain establishes digital identities for a range of participants across the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA). In PHIPA terms, this extends beyond the Health Information Custodians (clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies), Agents (doctors and pharmacists) and patients. The HealthChain Network also includes Electronic Service Providers (ESP) or vendors in the private sector who develop Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and pharmacy management systems (PMS), integrated with HealthChain. 

The HealthChain network

Trusted digital relationships are central to HealthChain’s approach to managing access controls.  Currently, doctors can only prescribe on behalf of clinics with which they have relationships, and only those within a patient’s circle of care can have access to a patient’s records. With HealthChain, tracking these relationships provides unprecedented transparency to patients regarding clinicians accessing their records.  This creates a momentous opportunity for patients to manage their consent preferences and for integrated healthcare applications to respect those directives, in real-time.

Who Benefits?

Overall, the patient benefits, as various healthcare providers are able to gain a comprehensive view of their medication profile. The current fragmentation of medical records across various parties, such as a patient’s family doctor, specialists, hospitals, pharmacies, walk-in clinics, etc. means that clinicians are often left guessing, as opposed to providing the best advice. This increased quality-of-care cascades into health system efficiencies, as the cost of avoidable adverse events is reduced.

In the short term, pharmacies can reduce overhead costs and errors involved in transcribing paper prescriptions they receive from a walk-in patient or fax transmission from a clinic.  Meanwhile, doctors can have a more complete profile of a patient’s medication profile across providers, rather than only seeing a patient’s medications tracked within their local EMR.

In the long term, patients gain transparency into their circle of care, can keep track of those accessing their records and manage consent through practical solutions. 

What’s the Future of Identity?

In digital identity, one of the biggest opportunities the HealthChain team sees is consent management.  In most healthcare systems today, the patient has no practical access to their own data, and no control over how their data is used.  The prescription records entered into EMRs belong to the clinic, and records entered into PMS’ belong to the pharmacy. The patient does not have any practical way to access those records or control how they are used.

Achieving real consent management implies many other accomplishments. Clinics, pharmacies, doctors, pharmacists and patients all need digital identities to digitally sign transactions and govern their access to patients’ digital records.  

Furthermore, patient record transparency unlocks valuable use cases on managing care of one’s self and others, such as people who manage the care of loved ones. Often, these ‘caregivers’ do not receive access to important records and information, which impacts their ability to deliver care. However, consent management tools bound to a patient’s circle of care will make the sharing of health data simpler and safer.

Currently, medical records are fragmented, and spread across various parties, such as a patient’s family doctor, specialists, hospitals, pharmacies and walk-in clinics

What is the Ecosystem and Who are the other Players?

HealthChain counts many partners across the ecosystem as being essential to their success, including those across government, EMR and PMS vendors, clinics, hospitals and pharmacies. HealthChain would like to work with government agencies to implement appropriate models of governance to respect patient’s consent. 

In Canada, SecureKey has established a promising approach in their Verified.Me product, for which HealthChain has completed a proof of concept project to validate the professional credentials of healthcare practitioners using the product. 

What’s Next?  

In the foreseeable future, doctors will still continue to use fax and paper, inhibiting the seamless user experience required to successfully bridge the traditional and digital ends of the spectrum. Experienced doctors are accustomed to working with a partial medical record and “owning” their piece of it. Changing the mindset to one of collaboration is surprisingly difficult, and exasperated by current privacy legislation, which places the liability on the doctor for any breach of data the doctor has collected – even if the breach occurred by a downstream healthcare practitioner.

HealthChain views the Pan-Canadian Trust Framework (PCTF) as a beacon for Canada, and has been closely watching this initiative for the past several years to ensure they are providing a practical and scalable platform reflecting key PCTF components in the healthcare space.