At SimplyVital Health we are developing Health Nexus, the blockchain infrastructure to allow healthcare providers to safely share their patient data, reducing healthcare cost globally. The Health Nexus protocol is a fork of Ethereum, and will use proof-of-stake, granting Health Nexus three unique features to ensure this data is kept safe and secure while still being easy to transfer: 1. a key pair system for secure data sharing, 2. a new validation and governance protocol, and 3. a distributed database system for distributed storage.
To understand these features, one must understand what proof-of-stake is. In the cryptocurrency world, proof of stake is when a node’s ability to mine blocks is determined by the amount of coins the node has. With proof-of-stake, the creator of a new block is chosen in a deterministic way, depending on its wealth, or “stake”.
This differs from cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which use proof-of-work or “mining”, which is much more energy intensive (creating one Bitcoin consumes as much energy as it takes to power 1.57 average American homes for a day). There are studies that indicate crypto-mining could consume as much energy as the entire nation of Denmark by 2020, making proof-of-stake an increasingly attractive alternative.
Now that we understand proof-of-stake, we can introduce our first unique feature, a built-in key pair system. The key pair system allows a user to grant access to healthcare data by creating permissioned keys, similar to those found in MIT Media Lab’s MedRec (implemented by our advisor, Dr. John Halamka, CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center!). The data can be stored off the blockchain, but the key pair system allows you to grant access to this “off chain data.”
These keys store pointers and identifiers to the data, and with a “master key” you can create children keys with set permissions to sell or share with others. This master key in turn will allow you to track and manage access of the data, with the children keys allowing data access and being controlled by the master key. You can create a master key for your patient data and create manageable children keys for third-parties you wish to share the data with. In this way, healthcare providers can easily share vital medical data with other providers, while ensuring that data remains protected.
The next portion is the governance and validation protocol. This governance consortium is in charge of validating and verifying miners, allowing us to make sure every miner on our network is HIPAA compliant (Health Information Portability and Accountability Act — requirements for safe transfer of healthcare data). This layer also creates a governing consortium that votes and approves upgrades, creating a smoother and faster system for updating the network.
This is a good place to note that the provider network, and not just SimplyVital, will lead the Health Nexus in the future. Every member of the governing consortium, ourselves included, can be voted out and new ones can be voted in, and we have created checks and balances that ensure the Health Nexus ecosystem is not dominated or abused. This will allow a way to ensure stability and security of network at the high standard required for healthcare.
It also means Health Nexus can be self-sustaining without us (SimplyVital) ensuring longevity and utility of our protocol by healthcare.
The final aspect will be the distributed data storage space. This has utility for not only in healthcare records, but also digital healthcare applications. With this, Health Nexus can offer a less expensive — and more secure — decentralized storage. Compare running an Intensive Care Unit on a centralized cloud (a single point of failure, like when AWS went down in April 2017) vs. running your Intensive Care Unit on a distributed cloud that does not have a single point of failure. We are comparing all opportunities and options for our design, including a Distributed Hash Table solution with a specially modified Kademlia table.
We have already spent a significant amount of time designing Health Nexus to focus on HIPAA compliance, and will continue to do so as the ecosystem evolves. Our dedication to our platform will ultimately drive down healthcare costs, improve patient outcomes, and solve one of the most frustrating issues facing healthcare providers nationwide.
The SimplyVital Health Team